Zero Squared #137: On the Radical Empiricism of Rhetoric

Daniel Coffeen is the author of the Zero Books title “Reading the Way of Things” and a frequent guest on this podcast and many others including the Partially Examined Life.

In this episode we discuss his essay: “On the Radical Empiricism of Rhetoric.”

Here’s an excerpt:

A rhetorical reckoning riles many people up as it doesn’t try to ground itself or its going in anything outside itself — in a truth or axiom or universal claim. It is indifferent to such things except in as much as such things are arguments, things to reckon. And so rather than ever being tethered or even seeking a tether, the rhetorician begins to enjoy all the different ways different things can go. It reads multiple ways to reckon a puppy or ballet or chair. Rather than stake a single claim, she — our rhetorician — takes delight in the going of things, in the possible ways of things. Which can be infuriating to someone who’s adamant in a single belief. This is what ballet is!

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.