119 episodes

Think About It engages today's leading thinkers in conversations about powerful ideas and how language can change the world.

Think About It Ulrich C. Baer

    • Arts
    • 4.9 • 51 Ratings

Think About It engages today's leading thinkers in conversations about powerful ideas and how language can change the world.

    Book Talk 49: “The Good Life” with Dora Zhang

    Book Talk 49: “The Good Life” with Dora Zhang

    “The good life” and “the American Dream “remain powerful animating principles in popular culture, politics, and also our individual psyches. I spoke with Professor Dora Zhang at the University of California at Berkeley who teaches a course on “the good life,” using mostly literary rather than philosophical texts. From Sophokles’s Antigone (441 B.C.) to Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2020); from Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1856) to Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (1959), and from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925) to the idea of “cruel optimism” advanced by literary critic Lauren Berlant, Zhang’s course is not intended to leave students depressed about their prospects but motivated to rethink what they’ve been told to hope for and aspire to. I loved this conversation with a gifted and brilliant teacher, which was also a sort of homecoming for me since I had been a freshman student at the University of California at Berkeley some 30 years ago, where I discovered that my love of literature could become the basis of a career.
    Professor Zhang is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on Anglo-American and European modernist fiction, literature and philosophy, novel theory, affect theory, visual culture, aesthetics, and ecocriticism. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and her B.A. in philosophy from the University of Toronto. Her book, Strange Likeness: Description and the Modernist Novel (University of Chicago Press, 2020), shows how description is far more than stage-setting or background in modernist novels. She’s also published on Proust and photography, Woolf and the philosophy of language, the role of atmospheres in everyday life, and Roland Barthes's travels in China.
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    • 1 hr 9 min
    Book Talk 48: Charlie Louth on Rainer Maria Rilke

    Book Talk 48: Charlie Louth on Rainer Maria Rilke

    Charlie Louth’s illuminating recent book, Rilke: The Life of the Work (Oxford University Press, 2021) examines why Rilke’s poems have exercised such preternatural attraction for now several generations of readers. The early 20th century German-language poet captured the experience of European culture irrevocably lurching into modernity, where an entire continent was forced to trade in its untenable and ultimately fantastically unrealistic Romantic worldview for the sober realization that humans are capable of even greater evil than any gods, and that life has meaning only if we continually create it. But unlike some other modernists, Rilke captured this vast cultural rupture in exceptionally beautiful and ever more effectively crafted, if ever less formal, poetry. Instead of explaining this effect away, Louth deepens the transformative experience of reading Rilke by offering his interpretation as one option among others and thus engaging the reader directly in the unfolding of each of Rilke’s words. Louth’s book follows the chronology of Rilke’s life (1875 – 1926) but focuses on the works, often in the context of the situation when they were written, rather than on Rilke’s itinerant life. I spoke with Charlie about the enduring importance of Rilke, about the Duino Elegies, and whether Rilke’s 1915 poem “Death” – or any of his works in general – can alleviate the cold fact that as humans, no matter how blessed, we will face inconsolable loss.
    Charlie Louth is Associate Professor of German and Fellow of Queen’s College, at Oxford University, in England. His research interests include poetry from the 18th century onwards, especially Goethe, Hölderlin, Mörike, Rilke and Celan; romanticism; translation; and comparative literature. His books include: Rilke: The Life of the Work (Oxford: OUP, 2020); Hölderlin and the Dynamics of Translation (Oxford: Legenda, 1998); (editor, with Patrick McGuinness), Gravity and Grace: Essays for Roger Pearson (Oxford: Legenda, 2019); (editor, with Florian Strob), Nelly Sachs im Kontext — eine »Schwester Kafkas«? (Heidelberg: Winter, 2014), and other works. He’s also translated Rilke’s Letters to Young Poet & The Letter from the Young Worker (Penguin, 2011).
    Uli Baer teaches literature and photography as University Professor at New York University. A recipient of Guggenheim, Getty and Humboldt awards, in addition to hosting "Speaking of…” he hosts (with Caroline Weber) the podcast "The Proust Questionnaire” and is Editorial Director at Warbler Press. Email ucb1@nyu.edu; Twitter @UliBaer.
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    • 1 hr 9 min
    Book Talk 47: Wendy Lee on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice"

    Book Talk 47: Wendy Lee on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice"

    Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice delights, charms and entrances reader since its anonymous publication in 1813. The Bennett sisters need to marry rich, for otherwise they'll fall into poverty and social disgrace. I talked with one of the great Austen experts of our time, Professor Wendy Lee of New York University, who has published widely on Austen, including in Failures of Feeling: Insensibility and the Novel (Stanford UP).
    Uli Baer teaches literature and photography as University Professor at New York University. A recipient of Guggenheim, Getty and Humboldt awards, in addition to hosting "Speaking of…” he hosts (with Caroline Weber) the podcast "The Proust Questionnaire” and is Editorial Director at Warbler Press. Email ucb1@nyu.edu; Twitter @UliBaer.
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    • 1 hr 22 min
    Book Talk 46: Marlene Daut on the Haitian Revolution in Literature

    Book Talk 46: Marlene Daut on the Haitian Revolution in Literature

    To learn more about the Haitian Revolution in fiction, I spoke with Professor Marlene Daut specialized in pre-20th-century Caribbean, African American, and French colonial literary and historical studies. Her first book, Tropics of Haiti: Race and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789-1865, was published in 2015 by Liverpool University Press' Series in the Study of International Slavery. Her second book, Baron de Vastey and the Origins of Black Atlantic Humanism, was published in fall 2017 from Palgrave Macmillan’s series in the New Urban Atlantic. She is also working on a collaborative project entitled, An Anthology of Haitian Revolutionary Fictions (Age of Slavery), which is under contract with the University of Virginia Press. Daut is the co-creator and co-editor of H-Net Commons’ digital platform, H-Haiti. She also curates a website on early Haitian print culture at http://lagazetteroyale.com and has developed an online bibliography of fictions of the Haitian Revolution from 1787 to 1900 at the website http://haitianrevolutionaryfictions.com. 
    "Theresa. A Haytien Tale," (1828) is the first known published story by an African-American writer in the United States. The story appeared in four installments in Freedom’s Journal, the first African-American owned and operated newspaper published in the U.S. from 1827 - 1829. The story was rediscovered by pioneering scholar Frances Smith Foster.
    The story is now included in Fictions of America: The Book of Firsts..
    Uli Baer teaches literature and photography as University Professor at New York University. A recipient of Guggenheim, Getty and Humboldt awards, in addition to hosting "Speaking of…” he hosts (with Caroline Weber) the podcast "The Proust Questionnaire” and is Editorial Director at Warbler Press. Email ucb1@nyu.edu; Twitter @UliBaer.
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    • 1 hr 6 min
    Book Talk 45: Paul Mendes-Flohr on Martin Buber's "I and Thou"

    Book Talk 45: Paul Mendes-Flohr on Martin Buber's "I and Thou"

    Today we talk a lot about a need for genuine dialogue, and for conversations across partisan divides and differences. What is a true, authentic, and meaningful conversation? Martin Buber's landmark 1923 book, I and Thou, examines and also proposes how genuine dialogue can happen. The short book proposes that "I and Thou," and "I and It" are inseparable word pairs rather than sets of 2 distinct terms, and that once we understand ourselves are already in relation with others, rather than atomistic subjects reaching out to others, it changes our lives. I spoke with Buber's biographer and expert, Professor Paul Mendes-Flohr, of the University of Chicago and Hebrew University in Jerusalem, to clarify Buber's points and the impact of this powerful, prophetic and poetic book which is not only a landmark of 20th-century intellectual history but also one of the most influential books of Western theology.
    Uli Baer teaches literature and photography as University Professor at New York University. A recipient of Guggenheim, Getty and Humboldt awards, in addition to hosting "Speaking of…” he hosts (with Caroline Weber) the podcast "The Proust Questionnaire” and is Editorial Director at Warbler Press. Email ucb1@nyu.edu; Twitter @UliBaer.
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    • 1 hr 9 min
    Book Talk 44: Samantha Hill on Hannah Arendt

    Book Talk 44: Samantha Hill on Hannah Arendt

    Hannah Arendt's 1967 essay on "Truth and Politics" centers on the uneasy relation between truth-telling and politics. Lying has always been part of politics, Arendt says, but something shifts with the wholesale attack on our ability to distinguish between fact and fiction, truth and make-believe. How can we be committed to the truth when politicians play fast and loose with it? Professor Samantha Hill will soon publish a new biography of Arendt and has immersed herself in Arendt's archives to grasp how the political thinker arrived at the concepts that have been revived recently to make sense of our currently political moment - with the rise of populism, attacks on the press as 'fake news,' heated debates about the role of free speech, and even cancel culture, of which Arendt fell victim not only once but twice.
    Professor Hill is the Assistant Director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities and Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics at Bard College, in New York State.
    Uli Baer teaches literature and photography as University Professor at New York University. A recipient of Guggenheim, Getty and Humboldt awards, in addition to hosting "Speaking of…” he hosts (with Caroline Weber) the podcast "The Proust Questionnaire” and is Editorial Director at Warbler Press. Email ucb1@nyu.edu; Twitter @UliBaer.
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    • 1 hr 4 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
51 Ratings

51 Ratings

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Oui

Thoughtful + thought-provoking + wonderful

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Great - One Critique

This podcast has such fantastic and knowledgeable guests, and I am always in awe of the information they discuss. My one criticism is that the host is not the best listener. He is constantly interjecting, even mansplaining and not letting the guest have space to share their views in an expansive, free, and uninterrupted fashion. Nonetheless, this podcast is fantastic; I just felt it was necessary to share my critique for the show's improvement.

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Department of Thoughtfulness

One of the very best, most searching podcasts on offer

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