Smarty Pants podcast

Smarty Pants

The American Scholar

Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. A podcast from The American Scholar magazine. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.

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202 Episódios

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    #201: Haunting the Homeland

    20:36

    Between 1947 and 1956, at least 77 recorded witchcraft trials took place in West Germany. Wonder doctors and faith healers walked the land, offering salvation to the tens of thousands of sick and spiritually ill wartime survivors who flocked to them. People hired exorcists and made pilgrimages to holy sites in search of redemption. The Virgin Mary appeared to these believers thousands of times. Monica Black, a historian at the University of Tennessee, found these stories and many others in newspaper clippings, court records, and other archives of the period that testify to West Germany’s supernatural obsession with ridding itself of evil—and complicate the conventional story of its swift rise from genocidal dictatorship to liberal, consumerist paradise. Black joins us on the podcast to describe the spiritual malaise lurking in the shadows: the unspoken guilt and shame of a country where Nazis still walked free. This episode originally aired in 2020.Go beyond the episode:Monica Black’s A Demon-Haunted LandThere’s a three-part, five-hour documentary about the German mystic and faith healer Bruno Gröning on YouTube, presented by the Bruno Gröning Circle of Friends, which is probably not the most unbiased sourceNational Geographic has compiled an extensive map of sightings of the Virgin Mary (note the big upswing in 1950s Germany)East Germans also fell prey to the influence of West German faith healers: the preacher Paul Schaefer promised people salvation if they followed him to South America. Read Scholar senior editor Bruce Falconer’s 2008 essay, “The Torture Colony,” on the troubled (and Nazi-ridden) Colonia DignidadTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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    #200: A Literary Love Letter to Egypt

    24:45

    In 2002, literacy was at an all-time low in Egypt, revolution was a few short years away, and Nadia Wassef opened an independent bookstore named Diwan in Cairo. With her sister Hind and her friend Nihal, Wassef built an oasis for lovers of the written word, whether Arabic, English, French, or German. Diwan now has seven locations—and two mobile book trucks—having survived recessions, censorship, misogyny, and political turmoil. Wassef joins the podcast to talk about the story of the store in her new book, Shelf Life.Go beyond the episode:Nadia Wassef’s Shelf Life: Chronicles of a Cairo BooksellerIf you’re ever in Egypt, visit DiwanRead your way through Egypt with these recommendations in The GuardianDive into the golden age of Egyptian cinema, or watch Souad, the first film by a female Egyptian director to be screened at CannesTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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    #199: The Late, Great, Country House

    24:29

    The English country house has been on the brink of ruination since at least the start of World War I—or perhaps the first chug of the Industrial Revolution—or was it the end of serfdom …? Propping up this dying, decadent institution has been a favored pastime of preservationists, architecture buffs, and earls for about as long as the institution has been around. In his new book, Noble Ambitions, historian Adrian Tinniswood peels back the wallpaper to show how these ancestral piles survived both World War II and the sunset of the British Empire—and in some ways, are more relevant than they ever were.Go beyond the episode:Adrian Tinniswood’s Noble Ambitions: The Fall and Rise of the English Country House After World War IIFor the completionist, his previous book: The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House, 1918-1939Revisit the famed 1974 Victoria & Albert exhibition “The Destruction of the Country House,” or go visit Agecroft Hall and Gardens in Richmond, Virginia, one of several country homes dismantled and reassembled on this side of the Atlantic. In England? Check out Sudbury Hall, which gets a shout out in the episodeThe first bestselling nonfiction book about the country house? Mark Girouard’s Life in the English Country HouseRead Sam Knight’s essay about the National Trust’s recent report on colonialism and slavery: “Britain’s Idyllic Country Houses Reveal a Darker History”If you haven’t yet, you simply must watch Downtown AbbeyTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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    #198: Between the Sheets and In the Streets

    29:02

    In March 2018, the Oxford philosopher Amia Srinivasan wrote a provocative essay for the London Review of Books asking, “Does anyone have the right to sex?” Three years later, the essay forms the backbone of a bold new collection that probes the complexity of sex as private and political act, moving beyond the simplicity of yes and no and the hashtags of #girlboss feminism. Srinivasan joins the podcast to discuss the ideas that animate The Right to Sex, whether it’s pornography and freedom, rape and racial injustice, punishment and accountability, or pleasure and power.Go beyond the episode:Amia Srinivasan’s The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First CenturyRead the essay that started it all: “Does anyone have the right to sex?”Relatedly, her essay on pronouns: “He, She, One, They, Ho, Hus, Hum, Ita”How many other philosophers have been profiled by Vogue?Smarty Pants is no stranger to feminism: listen to our episodes on feminist book collecting, rock criticism, war, science, and religionListen to historian Scott Stern on the origins of criminalizing sex work, and read his essay, “Sex Workers of the World United”Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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    #197: Nature on Trial

    23:09

    A bear burrowing through the trash bin. Rats on a home invasion spree. Elephants barreling through Indian villages. Caterpillars munching through crops. Once upon a time these offenders would be put on trial and dealt with in a court of law, however ineffectually. Today, conflict management between humans and the natural world is an entire industry that grows with every incursion we make into the wilderness. Mary Roach returns to the podcast to talk about what it was like to be mugged by a macaque while working on her new book, Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law.Go beyond the episode:Mary Roach’s Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the LawFlash back to 2016, when Roach was our very first guestYes: we really did put animals on trial, and it did not go wellAre the parrots of Western cities pests? San Francisco thinks not; Amsterdam disagreesWhat to do when 30-50 feral hogs run into your yard (OK, but they are actually a problem)Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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    #196: Drawing in Young Readers

    18:26

    For many of us, our very first book wasn’t one that we read ourselves—it was one read to us, the pages pawed by grubby hands eager to flip back to a favorite illustration. The very best children’s books combine a good story—however simple—with enchanting illustrations that can spark a love for reading, writing, art—or all three. Elizabeth Lilly, the author-illustrator of a new book for children called Let Me Fix You a Plate, joins us on the podcast to talk about the process of inviting the littlest readers into a new world.Go beyond the episode:Elizabeth Lilly’s Let Me Fix You a Plate: A Tale of Two Kitchens and GeraldineRead Scholar assistant editor Jayne Ross’s list of “10 Classic Books for Cooped-Up Kids” and her ode to the late Beverly ClearyThe science of how children learn to read, from linguist and Scholar contributing editor Jessica LoveTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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    #195: Outsider Physics

    22:13

    The most groundbreaking ideas in modern physics—the Earth is round, special relativity, the uncertainty principle—were once seen as shocking, impossible, even deviant (recall Galileo’s trial). Even today, wild ideas can be laughed out of a conference, especially if they come from someone perceived as an outsider. Brown University physics professor Stephon Alexander, one such self-identified outsider, joins the podcast to talk about his new book, Fear of a Black Universe, and his own experiences as a Black man in science who has made major contributions, “not in spite of [his] outsider’s perspective, but because of it.”Go beyond the episode:Stephon Alexander’s Fear of a Black Universe: An Outsider’s Guide to the Future of PhysicsRead an excerpt from his first book, The Jazz of PhysicsListen to the whole of Here Comes Now, Stephon Alexander’s album with RiouxScience writer Priscilla Long explains what’s so great about the Higgs bosonMedical doctor Robert Lanza steps out of his lane to propose “A New Theory of the Universe”Jethro K. Lieberman bemoans the state of physics education in “The Gravity of the Situation”Math and philosophy team up in Cristopher Moore and John Kaag’s exploration of “The Uncertainty Principle”Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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    #194: Skater Boy

    21:26

    As of this summer’s Tokyo Games, skateboarding is an Olympic sport—and those of us who didn’t grow up popping ollies and skinning our knees might be wondering how that happened. Originally known as “sidewalk surfing,” skateboarding was invented in midcentury California and Hawaii by surfers looking for something to do when the waves weren’t great. Since the first commercial skateboard was sold in 1962, the sport has ballooned to a billion-dollar industry including magazines, movies, and merchandise. Kyle Beachy, the author of The Most Fun Thing: Dispatches from a Skateboard Life, and a devoted skateboarder and skateboarding critic, joins the podcast to explain how the pastime became a global sensation.Go beyond the episode:Kyle Beachy’s new book, The Most Fun Thing: Dispatches from a Skateboard LifeBehold: skateboarding at the OlympicsFor a taste of feature-length skate documentaries, try Dogtown and the Z-Boys (2001) or Minding the Gap (2018)Three “high-reward skate films” recommended by our guest:Mouse: Spike Jonze directs a street skateboarding video from the latter days of the so-called “golden era” of the mid ’90s. A perfect example of what the traditional “skate video” form can yield. Paving Space: A 12-minute documentary about a collaborative art project between the Isle skateboard team and artist Raphael Zarka.Atlantic Drift Episode 11: Jacob Elliot Harris has defined a style for his Atlantic Drift project, and this one, featuring his lifetime friend Tom Knox, reveals just how vital the relationship between filmmaker and skater-subject is. Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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    #193: All the Pretty Horses

    19:11

    Black Beauty, Flicka, Secretariat, National Velvet, Misty of Chincoteague, and all the rest—horse books are a genre unto themselves, occupying an entire shelf (or more, should you add the 112 books in The Saddle Club series) of girls’ bedrooms everywhere. For all of the girls who lived and breathed horses (on the page or in the barn), the infatuation meant something that is difficult—or even embarrassing—to explain outside of the stable. Horse Girls, edited by Halimah Marcus, the executive director of Electric Literature, smashes all the stereotypes you might hold about riders and the way they relate to their horses, with diverse essays from the literary likes of horsewoman Jane Smiley and aspiring horse girl Carmen Maria Machado.Go beyond the episode:Horse Girls: Recovering, Aspiring, and Devoted Riders Redefine the Iconic Bond, edited by Halimah Marcus (read her introduction here)“I Hate Horses” by T Kira Madden, excerpted from the book“How Horses Helped My Ancestors Evade Colonizers, & Helped Me Find Myself” by Braudie Blais Billie, another excerpt“Horse girl energy” (and all the memes) explainedThough during the pandemic many people turned to riding—during which riders stayed six feet apart long before social distancing—horse fever has a long historyOur host outed herself as a horse girl once before, in an interview with The Age of the Horse author Susanna ForrestTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
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    #192: Age of Arthurs

    19:19

    If you were to distill the story of King Arthur and the Knights of Camelot down to its essence, you might alight on three nouns: Sword Stone Table. That’s the title of a new collection of Arthurian retellings, edited by Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington, that imagines the legends of yore in a London coffee shop, a dystopian Mexico City, Anishinaabe country, and even on Mars. Krishna and Jenn Northington join the podcast to talk about the Arthurs, Merlins, Guineveres, Lancelots, Morgans, and more who populate the once and future land of our imagination.Go beyond the episode:Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices, edited by Swapna Krishna and Jenn NorthingtonReacquaint yourself with the magic of Mary Stewart’s Merlin TrilogyEven the BBC wants to know: King Arthur and Camelot—Why the cultural fascination?The boy king is no stranger to television, but “good adaptations of the King Arthur myth to screen are far out-numbered by the unsuccessful ones”A good one from the Arthur extended universe: The Green KnightTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!Music featured from Strobotone (“Medieval Theme 02”), courtesy of the Free Music Archive. Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

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