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The American Vandal

Author: Matt Seybold, Center For Mark Twain Studies

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An ever-growing collection of conversations and presentations about literature, humor, and history in America, produced by the premier source for programming and funding scholarship on Mark Twain's life and legacy.
73 Episodes
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Recorded at The Ohio State University, as part of the Project Narrative series, Matt Seybold reflects on the making of "Criticism LTD" [3:15], as well as ongoing Ponzi austerity, reassessment of close reading, and AI speculative euphoria since its conclusion [14:30]. James Phelan (Director of Project Narrative) argues for narrative theory's contributions to literary studies as a discipline [35:30] and they take questions from the audience [47:50]. Theme Song: "A Little Bit Strange To Begin With" by Redd Holt & The Heptet Cast (in order of appearance): Matt Seybold, James Phelan, Amanpal Garcha, Sandra Macpherson, Brian McHale, Christine Tulley For a bibliography of this episode, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/AfterCriticismLTD or subscribe to Matt Seybold's substack at TheAmericanVandal.Substack.com
From the production studios of Ohio State University, American Vandal host, Matt Seybold, and James Phelan, the Director of Project Narrative, read aloud Chapter 18 of "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain [3:40], then discuss it [30:00] with emphases on the opportunities the chapter presents for types of close reading. This episode is a crossover with the Project Narrative podcast, which you can learn more about at ProjectNarrative.osu.edu. For our episode bibliography, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/ProjectNarrative or subscribe to Matt Seybold's newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.Substack.com
The finale episode of our miniseries on corporate allegory was recorded the day after the publication of Anna Kornbluh's "Immediacy, or The Style of Too Late Capitalism" by Verso. With numerous allusions to the book, Matt Seybold asks Kornbluh and "City of Industry" blogger J. D. Connor to consider the potential "perfect storm" of media disruption in 2024. Among the topics they cover are the enshittification of social, search, & and streaming, the investor-led rush to profitability justifiying downsizing across media sectors, the speculative euphoria associated with AI-generated art, and the eroding boundaries between media forms. Theme Song: "This Year" by The Steel Wheels For more about this episode, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/TwentyTwentyFour or subscribe to Matt Seybold's newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.Substack.com
Our series on corporate allegory continues with an extended discussion of Apple TV+, both its film and television offerings, as well as the relationship between such "content" and the corporation's primary business: selling iPhones and other hardware. Among the specific works discussed are "Severance," "Killers Of The Flower Moon," "Lessons In Chemistry," "Fingernails," "Gutsy," "The Foundation," "Silo," "Ted Lasso," "The Last Thing He Told Me," and, most extensively, "The Morning Show." Theme Song: "This Year" by The Steel Wheels For more about this episode, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/AppleTV or subscribe to Matt Seybold's newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.Substack.com
In an episode which operates as both coda to "Criticism LTD" and herald of 2024, Matt Seybold is joined by two scholars working on the complex history and sometimes conflicting methods of close reading. They also discuss the reception of Big Fiction: How Conglomeration Changed The Publishing Industry (Columbia UP, 2023) [31:00] and a bevy of novels by Danielle Steel, including The Promise (1978), Happiness (2023), and Worthy Opponents (2023) [39:00]. Theme Song: "This Year" by The Steel Wheels For more about this episode, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/Steel or subscribe to Matt Seybold's newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.Substack.com
A new season on corporate allegory, business melodrama, and new releases from academic presses kicks off with a discussion of the recent Mike Flanagan adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Fall Of The House of Usher" for Netflix. For more about this episode, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/Usher or TheAmericanVandal.Substack.com
"Criticism LTD" concludes its lengthy examination of the unanswerable questions about the state of literary studies with a lengthy consideration of "The Future of Decline" [8:00], the delusion of progress [16:00], the British model of declinist politics [22:00] and literary criticism [29:00], an insider's account of the long tail of "The Chicago Fight" [45:00], the libertarian rejoinder [54:00], and the curriculum of cruelty [61:00]. Cast (in order of appearance): Kim Adams, Saronik Bosu, Matt Seybold, Jed Esty, Bruce Robbins, Beci Carver, Gerald Graff, Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera Soundtrack: Joe Locke's "Makram" For episode bibliography, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/EmpireOfCriticism, or subscribe to our newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.SubStack.com, where you will also receive episode transcripts.
In the second part of the finale of "Criticism LTD," we hear about the origins of Jacque Derrida's "Limited Inc." from its editor, the fraught alliance between criticism and history [17:00], the Center For The Literary Arts at Washington University in St. Louis [33.00], the transition from creative writer to working critic [62:00], and critical vocationalism [72:00]. Cast (in order of appearance): Gerald Graff, Matt Seybold, Jed Esty, Ignacio Infante, Danielle Dutton, Ryan Ruby Soundtrack: Joe Locke's "Makram" For episode bibliography, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/EmpireOfCriticism, or subscribe to our newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.SubStack.com, where you will also receive episode transcripts.
The tripartite finale of "Criticism LTD" begins with a the feud between Matthew Arnold and Mark Twain, followed by "Bed Glee" [14:00], "Outing Criticism" [40:00], and "The Fate of Professional Reading" [59:00] Cast (in order of appearance): Beci Carver, Kim Adams, Ryan Ruby, Ainehi Edoro, Jed Esty, Matt Seybold, Gerald Graff, Harry Stecopoulos Soundtrack: Joe Locke's "Makram" For episode bibliography, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/EmpireOfCriticism, or subscribe to our newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.SubStack.com, where you will also receive episode transcripts.
A sometimes uncanny Halloween week exploration of the EdTech griftopia. Who's monetizing our data? How is EdTech being used to bust unions [8:00]? How does EdTech reveal the interdependence of teaching and research, and the horror of their unbundling [36:00]? How does being a union member effect literary studies research [61:00]? Is AI the end of literary criticism [81:00]? Cast (in order of appearance): Annie McClanahan, Sarah Brouillette, Matt Seybold, Bryan Alexander, Brian Deyo, Louise McCune, Max Chapnick, Lawrence Lorraine Mullen, Francesca Colonese, Ted Underwood Soundtrack: Joe Locke's "Makram" For episode bibliography, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/Unbundling, or subscribe to our newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.SubStack.com, where you will also receive episode transcripts.
Podcasting Criticism

Podcasting Criticism

2023-10-2702:04:58

An appropriately rangy discussion of the podcast medium and its debts to existing print and audio forms. The origin story of The American Vandal Podcast is followed by comparison with several other podcasts, including Revisionist History [11:30], Remarkable Receptions [30:00], and High Theory [68:00], interspersed with analysis of podcast editing as criticism [50:00], the conservative traditions of orality and radio [60:00], and how podcasting might by made to "count" for disciplinary professionalization [90:00]. Cast (in order of appearance): Sheri-Marie Harrison, Matt Seybold, Joe Locke, Kim Adams, Saronik Bosu, Howard Rambsy II Soundtrack: Joe Locke's "Makram" For episode bibliography, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/PodcastingCriticism, or subscribe to our newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.SubStack.com, where you will also receive episode transcripts.
As mass-market literature has been consolidated into a small handful of publishing conglomerates, the critical work once done by publicity and editorial departments has been offloaded. In this episode we discuss the rise of literary agents and their function as critics [8:00] and the role of literary awards in canon formation and other processes of homogenization [28:00]. Finally, we ask, can criticism be a countervailing force against conglomeration? [60:00] Cast (in order of appearance): Dan Sinykin, Matt Seybold, Laura McGrath, Sheri-Marie Harrison, Ainehi Edoro, Howard Rambsy Soundtrack: Joe Locke's "Makram" For episode bibliography, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/conglomerate, or subscribe to our newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.SubStack.com, where you will also receive episode transcripts.
What is literary knowledge? And, for that matter, what is literature? A survey of new literary media takes on audiobooks [5:00], BookTube and BookTok [26:00], and Wattpad [75:00]. Cast (in order of appearance): Christopher Newfield, Matt Seybold, Laura McGrath, Mark McGurl, Sarah Brouillette Soundtrack: Joe Locke's "Makram" For episode bibliography, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/parabooks, or subscribe to our newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.SubStack.com, where you will also receive episode transcripts.
What is the relationship between literary criticism and media studies? How has criticism adapted to the digital revolution? These questions are considered by examining the origins of the blogosphere [5:00], its recent reemergence [17:00], the specific case of "Brittle Paper" [29:00], and strategies of adaptation within the profession [46:00]. The episode then turns to two examinations of multimedia parasitical criticism: Jacque Derrida's "Limited Inc." [60:00] and Ryan Ruby's "Context Collapse" [71:00]. Cast (in order of appearance): Ainehi Edoro, Matt Seybold, Howard Rambsy, Sheri-Marie Harrison, John Guillory, Ryan Ruby Soundtrack: Joe Locke's "Makram" For episode bibliography, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/Parasite, or subscribe to our newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.SubStack.com, where you will also receive episode transcripts
Politics & The Paracademy

Politics & The Paracademy

2023-09-2301:56:41

An attempt to triangulate politicization, professionalization, and publication by examining several periods in the history of criticism. The episode begins with Joe Locke describing an overt turn towards social justice in his music following police murder of George Floyd, followed by a discussion of the misperception of "Professing Criticism" as a call to depoliticize [7:00]. An epilogue to "The Chicago Fight" [17:00] and humanist criticism [24:00]. Discussion of the implicit politics of the paracademy [51:00], its emergence in response to conglomeration [56:00], and the reemergence of patronage [68:00] precede profile of Las Vegas Review of Books [81:00] and epilogue at University of Puerto Rico [100:30]. Cast (in order of appearance): Matt Seybold, Joe Locke, Bruce Robbins, John Guillory, Eddie Nik-Khah, Tom Lutz, Katie Kadue, John Hay, Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera Soundtrack: Joe Locke's "Makram" For episode bibliography, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/Paracademy, or subscribe to our newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.SubStack.com, where you will also receive episode transcripts.
The Chicago Critics won the Chicago Fight of the 1930s, but they lost the Chicago Cold War. Chicago Economics got its start dismantling the Chicago Plan. This episode covers the brief victory of the Neo-Aristotelians, the long tail of Economics Imperialism [18:30], the rivalry between economics and literary criticism [39:00], the Chicago Economists' parody of "Treasure Island" [55:00], the implicit alliance between Chicago Economics and the New Critics [60:00], and Robert Hutchins's dream of "The University of Utopia" [72:00] Cast (in order of appearance): Edward Nik-Khah, Matt Seybold, Studs Terkel, Robert Hutchins, Anna-Dorothea Schneider, Christopher Newfield, Anna Kornbluh Soundtrack: Joe Locke's "Makram" For episode bibliography, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/ChicagoFight, or subscribe to our newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.SubStack.com, where you will also receive episode transcripts.
A deep dive into the Chicago Critics who inspired John Crowe Ransom's 1937 essay, "Criticism Inc.," as well as their working conditions at the University of Chicago under Robert Maynard Hutchins. His implementation of "The Chicago Plan" and the resulting "Chicago Fight" [9:00], the afterlives of the Chicago Critics in contemporary literary studies [30:00], the import of the Walgreen Hearings [49:00], and the seeding of the Chicago School of Economics. Cast (in order of appearance): Matt Seybold, Bruce Robbins, Anna-Dorothea Schneider, John Guillory, Harold Langer, Edward Nik-Khah, Robert Maynard Hutchins Soundtrack: Joe Locke's "Makram" For episode bibliography, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/ChicagoFight, or subscribe to our newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.SubStack.com, where you will also receive episode transcripts.
What is the political economy of New Criticism? Are the racist and reactionary Cold War politics of the New Critics immanent to their trademark method: close reading? The episode begins with the story of Langston Hughes testifying before the the House Un-American Activities Committee on what goes into the interpretation of a poem. What constitutes "tactical criticism" [9:00]? Critics try to rescue close reading from the "bad politics" at its origins [38:00], endorse supplementary methods [59:00], and describe how New Criticism looks from outside the U.S. and U.K. [1:07.30]. Cast (in order of appearance): Langston Hughes, Andy Hines, Matt Seybold, Jed Esty, John Guillory, Anna Kornbluh, Christopher Newfield, Ignacio M. Sanchez Prado Soundtrack: Joe Locke's "Makram" For episode bibliography, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/NewCriticism, or subscribe to our newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.SubStack.com, where you will also receive episode transcripts.
Last week, West Virginia University announced that it would abolish its World Languages, Literatures, & Linguistics Department, proposing to replace it with automated digital instruction. This is the apotheosis of trends going back decades. In this episode we talk about the effects of monolingual education, the case study in Ponzi Austerity at WVU [5:00], alternative paths for literary studies [11:00], the cosmopolitan cultural abundance that is sometimes overlooked by Anglophone criticism [50:00], and Matt Seybold interviews Joe Locke about "Makram" and jazz education [57:00]. Cast (in order of appearance): Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera, Ignacio M. Sanchez Prado, Matt Seybold, Joe Locke Soundtrack: Joe Locke's "Makram" For episode bibliography, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/GeeGordonPonzi, or subscribe to our newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.SubStack.com, where you will also receive episode transcripts.
How has the systemic defunding and deprofessionalizing of humanities academia impacted literary criticism? Why is there such a flourishing culture industry if demand for cultural education is supposedly declining? We look to megatrends like U.S. hegemony, organizations like the MLA (6:30), analogues like the Eurozone Debt Crisis (19:30), mechanisms of funding and distribution (28:00), and potential futures of disruption and declinism (1:01.30). Cast (in order of appearance): Jed Esty, Matt Seybold, Anna Kornbluh, Christopher Newfield, Yanis Varoufakis Soundtrack: Joe Locke's "Makram" For episode bibliography, please visit MarkTwainStudies.com/PonziAusterity, or subscribe to our newsletter at TheAmericanVandal.SubStack.com, where you will also receive episode transcripts.
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