Episode 2: Novels & Political Consciousness

How does reading novels affect our understanding of the power dynamics that shape our lives?

The novel may be the best technology we have for transmitting human consciousness. But novels like Leo Tolstoy’sAnna Kareninadon’t just give us a window into characters’ suffering minds. They also turn pain and oppression into beautiful literary prose. How does reading novels affect our understanding of the world we live in and the power dynamics that shape our lives?

In the second episode of Season 2 ofPublic Books 101,novelist Elif Batuman and scholar Merve Emre join our host, Nicholas Dames, to debate whether novels depoliticize us, or, like Sakaya Murata’sConvenience Store Woman, show readers what a life of freedom could look like.

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View a transcript of the episodehere.

Our guests

  • Elif Batumanis author of the novelThe Idiot(2017), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, andThe Possessed(2010), a collection of comic interconnected essays about Russian literature. She has a PhD in comparative literature from Stanford University and has been a staff writer at theNew Yorkersince 2010.
  • Merve Emreis associate professor of English at the University of Oxford. She is author ofParaliterary: The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar America(2017) andThe Personality Brokers(2018),和合作者The Ferrante Letters(2019). Merve’s essays and criticism have appeared in theNew Yorker,Atlantic,London Review of Books, andbetway体育简介以及其他出版物。
  • Nicholas Dames, this season’s host, is an editor in chief ofbetway体育简介and the Theodore Kahan Professor of Humanities in the department of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. His most recent book isThe Physiology of the Novel: Reading, Neural Science, and the Form of Victorian Fiction(2007). He has written on contemporary fiction, novel reading, and the humanities for theAtlantic,n+1,Nation,New Left Review,New Yorker, and theNew York Times Book Review.

男人tioned in this episode

  • Books: Alexander Pushkin’sEugene Onegin;Leo Tolstoy’sAnna Karenina;Vladimir Nabokov’sLolita;Miguel de Cervantes’sDon Quixote;Thomas Hardy’s无名的裘德;简奥斯汀的Pride and Prejudice;Sakaya Murata’sEarthlings;Shulamith Firestone’sThe Dialectic of Sex;Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels; Douglas Stuart’sShuggie Bain
  • Authors: Herbert Marcuse, Sigmund Freud, René Girard, Marcel Proust
  • Articles, essays, quotes: “A Mini History of Convenience Stores in Japan” (2001);reviewof Batuman’sThe Idiotin theNew York Times(2017); Martin Amison the dearth of sexinPride and Prejudice;Adrienne Rich’s “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” (1980)

Further reading

Elif recommends:

Merve recommends:

This episode was produced byAnnie Galvinand islicensedunder aCreative Commons-AttributionLicense(CC-BY 4.0).icon