Zero Squared #38: Dangerous Literature (pt 2)

Tom Sperlinger is the author of Romeo and Juliet in Palestine and he returns this week for the second half of a conversation about teaching Dangerous Literature. This week we talk about Kafka’s unfinished novel The Trial, the failings of Doris Lessing, unfinished novels, and Judy Blume.

Sperlinger recently taught a course on “Dangerous Books.” Here’s an excerpt from the course description:

Can works of literature only reflect society, or might they be a catalyst for reform? If a book has an urgent political message, can it also become a lasting work of art? Why might a work of literature be considered dangerous? In what circumstances are books banned? And conversely, what does this tell us about the power of literature, including in consciousness-raising or as a form of protest or resistance?

In this episode you’ll hear the voice of Orson Welles’ reading Before the Law as lifted from his film version of the Trial, an bit of JM Bernstein lecturing on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, an excerpt from Todd Machover’s Opera version of Philip K. Dick’s Valis, and the jazz band Kafka performing Kafka’s Theme on Brownswood Bubblers Four compiled by Gilles Peterson.

Zero Squared #37: Dangerous Literature

Tom Sperlinger is the author of Romeo and Juliet in Palestine and he returns this week to discuss teaching Dangerous Literature. This is part one of a two part conversation. This week we focus on the question of polemics in fiction and modernism, and next week we’ll take a close look at Kafka’s unfinished novel The Trial.

Sperlinger recently taught a course on “Dangerous Books.” Here’s an excerpt from the course description:

Can works of literature only reflect society, or might they be a catalyst for reform? If a book has an urgent political message, can it also become a lasting work of art? Why might a work of literature be considered dangerous? In what circumstances are books banned? And conversely, what does this tell us about the power of literature, including in consciousness-raising or as a form of protest or resistance?

In this episode you’ll hear the voice of Norman Mailer again, a reading of Philip K. Dick’s letter warning the FBI about the conspiracy of Stanislaw Lem, the music of John Cage, the voice of BS Johnson, the music of the X-Ray Spex, an excerpt from Negativland’s 1980 album entitled Negativland, and Sad Cat Walk by Dan Lett.

Zero Squared #32: Vade Mecum

Richard Skinner’s collection of essays Vade Mecum is the topic of dicussion this week as the author discusses Eric Satie, Werner Herzog, John Cage, and the interdisciplinary life of a man of letters. Skinner is a novelist whose works include The Red Dancer, The Mirror, and now Vade Mecum.

From the jacket:

Vade Mecum brings together Richard Skinner’s best essays, reviews and interviews from 1992-2014. There are close critical engagements with writers (Kazuo Ishiguro, Italo Calvino, Shakespeare’s The Tempest) and composers (Erik Satie, Iannis Xenakis, Luc Ferrari), meditations on films and filmmakers (Antonioni, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Chinatown) and idiosyncratic reflections on Werner Herzog’s Of Walking in Ice and Steely Dan.

In this episode you’ll also hear the voice of John Cage, the music of Boards of Canada, a collage about expressionism and the avant garde, Werner Herzog describing Klaus Kinski to David Letterman, The Dell Vikings “Come Go With Me,” a brief reading from Vade Mecum on the subject of Italo Calvino’s cities, and Erik Satie’s Vexations.

Zero Squared #26: Romeo and Juliet in Palestine

Tom Sperlinger is the guest this week and we discuss his book Romeo and Juliet in Palestine. Tom Sperlinger is director of Lifelong Learning for English at the University of Bristol, where he has set up a part-time BA in English Literature and Community Engagement. He has written about literature, universities and adult education for publications including The Guardian, The Independent on Sunday, The Times Higher, The Times Literary Supplement, Open Democracy and The Reader. Romeo and Juliet in Palestine is his first book and came out from Zero Books last month on June 26th.

John Berger who is best known for his book and television series Ways of Seeing blurbed the book this way:

A book of vivid first-hand experience about the daily lives, suffering and courage of Palestinians living in the West Bank. Read it, imagine it and pass it around.

The voices you’ll hear in this episode include Rick Roderick, Stephen Greenblatt, Hamlet, Horatio, Robin Williams in the Dead Poet’s Society, Michael Fassbender, a Librivox recording of David Cooperfield, and Gretrude Stein reading If I Had Told Him a Completed Portrait of Picasso. The music in the episode is The Carmans Whistle by William Byrd.