8. Philadelphia’s utopian roots

 
A utopia presents an ideal world that has overcome the problems of the present.  For the original Utopia, written by Thomas More in the 16th century, one of those problems was the division of land into public and private.  His solution was shared ownership of the land.  But what sounded good on the page didn’t work so smoothly in practice.  

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7. Global currents in US literature

What connects Langston Hughes to Hong Kong, Malcolm X to Mecca, and Syrian merchants to the 9/11 memorial? In this episode, English professor Wai Chee Dimock shows us how to read quintessentially American writers from an international perspective. From this angle, major American concerns like race and money start to look a little different.

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6. The long history of reading aloud

The idea of putting spaces between written words didn’t develop until thousands of years after writing itself was invented. Before then, even literate people could only recognize words by reading aloud. And since then, we’ve read aloud for many different reasons. Our guest Roger Chartier walks us through a few of the most interesting — from raucous Shakespearean theaters to railway passengers cozying up with strangers to listen to a novel.

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5. The politics of disobedient wives

During the Renaissance, a writer could be imprisoned just for claiming that a husband beating his wife should show mercy. It wasn’t that the authorities wanted merciless wife-beatings. The issue was that they understood criticism of a tyrannical husband as criticism of a tyrannical king. English professor Julie Crawford explains how power relations within the home have underpinned political thinking for many centuries.

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2. Atrocity, time, and the novel

We live in a world with a long history of atrocity — from the colonization of the Americas to the Japanese massacre at Nanking. Our guest Bruce Robbins is curious about how these past atrocities show up in novels. In our conversation today, he focuses on how the novel plays with time. By paying attention to these shifting timelines, Bruce suggests that readers can begin to imagine a more just future.

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