Source: Cambridge University Press.

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Walter Kaufmann
“Kaufmann saw Nietzsche as something of an early existentialist, which brings us to these vintage lectures recorded in 1960 (right around the time that Kaufmann, a German-born convert to Judaism, also became a naturalized American citizen). The three lectures offer a short primer on existentialism and the modern crises philosophers grappled with.”

Listen at Open Culture.

Mark Lawson (The Guardian) reviews a new BBC period drama and traces its contemporary relevance
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Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent

As they watch a suicide bomber with explosives strapped to his chest walk through a London that feels on the brink of political collapse, some viewers may suspect that the new TV adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel, The Secret Agent, has been tweaked to maximise contemporary relevance.

Those elements, though, are in the original, making the BBC1 three-parter – with Toby Jones as Verloc, an anarchist who becomes involved in a plot to blow up Greenwich Observatory – the latest example of Conrad’s story becoming a prism through which modern political insecurities are viewed. It is a tactic that goes back to 1936, when Alfred Hitchcock filmed the story, under the title Sabotage, as a reflection of the developing political pressures in Europe.

Ever since, the years that sees an adaptation of The Secret Agent is unlikely to have been a good one for democracy. The BBC put the book on the screen twice in quick succession, in 1967 and 1975, straddling an era of international instability, marked by the rise of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, student riots in France and assassinations in the US. There had even been, in the early 70s, a period of actual anarchist terrorism in England, with bombings carried out by the Angry Brigade. (more…)

Source: The New Yorker.

mark-kurlansky-paper-paging-through-history“Mark Kurlansky has written wide-­ranging histories of cod and salt. Now he has turned to another apparently insignificant, indispensable subject. […] The history of paper is a history of cultural transmission, and Kurlansky tells it vividly in this compact, well-illustrated book.”

More at The New York Times.

“The frame that now houses a Van Gogh painting in the Guggenheim collection has its own fascinating story.”

More at Guggenheim.

John Mullan examines what today’s TV dramatists can learn from the masters of the trade (Source).

On poetry and the dissemination of marginalised voices

“Ferlinghetti calls to the poet-reader, addressing them as Whitman, Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, etc. — all famous writers, some of them queer. And that’s maybe apt, as it’s long been queer writers who have made the case for poetry as activism — even today, when their voices might no longer seem necessary and poetry is sometimes a punchline. Because even as their stories creep in from the margins, queer lives are not transformed into fairytales by marriage equality and the cooption of drag culture. Queer voices must still be heard, and poetry’s tradition of tribal truth-telling always has and continues to make it the perfect tool for the dissemination of those voices.”

More at Flavorwire.

“The recent screening of BBC’s War and Peace has inspired many a TV viewer to dust off their old copy of Tolstoy’s masterpiece and give it another go. Daring ones, seduced perhaps by the radiance of Natasha Rostova, might be persuaded to dig into the vast world of Russian literature in search of other memorable female characters. Where to begin? Look no further. Here is your guide to the VIPs of Russian literary heroines.”

— Source: Literary Hub

Worth a look for those interested in Russian literature. Although, of course, it’s important to remember that each and every character was written by a man.

Source: Literary Hub.

Jennifer Dawn Whitney (DCRC) traces the history of our anxieties about robot technology

1950s-robot-toy

In contemporary Western culture, we often trace our relationship with automation and robotics to the Industrial Revolution – or, more recently – to a kind of American futurism rooted in the 1950s. Wedged between these two moments of modernity we find the word ‘robot’, which came into usage in the 1920s.

(more…)

From an article by Birger Vanwesenbeeck (Los Angeles Review of Books) on Gustave Flaubert [Source]

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Pynchon, DeLillo, Atwood, Dostoyevsky, DeLillo.

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