Showtime’s Billions & COVID Form with Anna Kornbluh & Devin William Daniels

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Season 5 of the hit Showtime series, Billions, concluded last Sunday, exactly 17 months after it began. As Anna Kornbluh puts it, “this is one of our first great artifacts of COVID deforming TV and COVID deforming the narrative.”

In this episode of The American Vandal Podcast, Matt Seybold speaks with Dr. Kornbluh and Devin William Daniels about Season 5 of Billions, discussing in particular how the show’s prevailing conflict, between the corrupt personifications of private capital and public governance, adapts and accommodates the shifting media landscape and economic conditions of the years surrounding its production.

Devin William Daniels is a Ph.D candidate in the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania. His research examines 20th-century cultural production and the histories of surveillance, computing, security, and welfare, with particular regard to the historical forms of the novel and the state. His dissertation, “Informatics States: Administration, Identity, and Surveillance in the U.S. Novel, 1940–1977,” considers how the novel understood, depicted, and engaged with the information systems and technologies of administration through which the state comes to “know,” define, and interface with its populace and citizenry, from the New Deal to the dawn of neoliberalism. He recently published an essay, “Kill The Body & The Head Will Die: Realism, Capitalism, & The Financier,” in Meditations. He is cohost of the podcast You’re Tall But I’m Standing In Front Of You.

Anna Kornbluh is Professor of English & Director of Graduate Studies at University of Illinois, Chicago. In 2018, she wrote about Billions for Los Angeles Review of Books. Her research and teaching interests center on Victorian literature and Critical Theory, with a special emphasis in formalism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, and theory of the novel.  She is the author of The Order of Forms: Realism, Formalism, and Social Space (University of Chicago 2019),  Marxist Film Theory and Fight Club (Bloomsbury “Film Theory in Practice” series, 2019), and Realizing Capital: Financial and Psychic Economies in Victorian Form (Fordham UP 2014).  Her current research concerns impersonality, objectivity, mediation, and abstraction as residual faculties of the literary in privatized urgent times. She is the founding facilitator of two scholarly cooperatives: V21 Collective and InterCcECT.

Episode Bibliography:

Michelle Chihara, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Finance” (Los Angeles Review of Books, Sep. 19, 2015)

Devin William Daniels, “Kill The Body & The Head Will Die: Realism, Capitalism, & The Financier” (Meditations, Spring 2021)

Anna Kornbluh, “Fifty Billion Shades of Gray” (Los Angeles Review of Books, Aug. 24, 2018)

Brain Koppelman & David Levien, Beyond The Billions (Ringer Podcast Network, 2020)

Matt Seybold, “Eat The Shorts: A Billions FanFic Review of The China Hustle (Los Angeles Review of Books, June 23, 2018)

Mark Twain, The Gilded Age (1873)

Mark Twain, “The Revised Catechism” (New York Daily Tribune, Sep. 27, 1871)