Ponzi Austerity & The Monolingual University (Criticism LTD, Episode #4)

Apple Podcasts


Resonate Recordings

Last week, West Virginia University announced that it would abolish its World Languages, Literatures, & Linguistics Department, proposing to replace it with automated digital instruction. This is the apotheosis of trends going back decades. In this episode we talk about the effects of monolingual education, the case study in Ponzi Austerity at WVU [5:00], alternative paths for literary studies [11:00], the cosmopolitan cultural abundance that is sometimes overlooked by Anglophone criticism [50:00], and Matt Seybold interviews Joe Locke about “Makram” and jazz education [57:00].

Starting this season, episode transcripts will be available to all who subscribe to The American Vandal newsletter.


Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera is Professor of the Humanities at University of Puerto Rico, as well as author of Decolonizing American Spanish (U Pittsburgh P, 2022), After American Studies (Routledge, 2018), and “Where The Humanities Are Not In Crisis”

Joe Locke is a professional vibraphonist, composer, and bandleader with hundreds of recording credits and commissions across a range of musical styles. His 2023 album, Makram (Circle 9 Records), is the soundtrack to “Criticism LTD.”

Ignacio M. Sanchez Prado is the Jarvis Thurston & Mona Van Duyn Professor in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis, and the author of “The Humanities Are Worth Fighting For” and Cultural Capital: Reflections from a Latin Americanist.”

Matt Seybold is Associate Professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, resident scholar at the Center For Mark Twain Studies, and executive producer of The American Vandal PodcastHe’s also co-editor (with Michelle Chihara) of The Routledge Companion to Literature & Economics (2018). And the author of “Gordon Gee’s Draw Check Scheme.”


The American Vandal Podcast is delighted that Joe Locke and Circle 9 Records have given us permission to use Locke’s new album, Makramas the soundtrack to the “Criticism LTD” series. Locke’s quartet features Lorin Cohen on bass, Jim Ridl on keys, and Samvel Sarkisyan on drums, as well as Locke on vibes.

Tracks featured in this episode include Locke’s original compositions “Elegy For Us All,” “Makram,” “Tushkin,” “Raise Heaven (For Roy),” “Interwoven Hues,” & “Song For Vic Juris.”

And his arrangement of Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale.”

Episode Bibliography:

Ian Bogost & Matt Seybold, “The Plausible End of Social Media, Downscaling, & The Latent Celebrity Mindset” The American Vandal Podcast (November 23, 2022)

Pierre Bourdieu, The Rules of Art: Genesis & Structure of The Literary Field (1992) [Stanford UP English Edition]

Wendy Brown, Undoing The Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution (Zone, 2017)

Terry Caesar, Forgiving The Boundaries: Home As Abroad In American Travel Writing (U. Georgia, 1995)

Priscilla Colón, Casa Areyto

Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (U. Chicago, 2015)

John Guillory, Professing Criticism: Essays On The Organization of Literary Study (U. Chicago, 2022)

John Guillory, Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation (U. Chicago, 1993) [Enlarged Edition, 2023]

Nelson Maldonado-Torres, “Thinking through the Decolonial Turn: Post-continental Interventions in Theory, Philosophy, and Critique” Transmodernity (Fall 2011)

Stuart Hall, “Cultural Studies: Two Paradigms” Media, Culture, & Society (January 1980)

Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera, “Where The Humanities Are Not In Crisis” Los Angeles Review of Books (June 13, 2023)

Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera, Decolonizing American Spanish: Eurocentrism & Foreignness in The Imperial Ecosystem (U. Pitt, 2022)

Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera, After American Studies: Rethinking the Legacies of Transnational Exceptionalism (Routledge, 2018)

Hua Hsu, “Stuart Hall & The Rise of Cultural Studies” The New Yorker (July 17, 2017)

Stephen King (Ed.) The Best American Short Stories 2007 (Houghton Mifflin, 2007)

Sheila Liming, What A Library Means To A Woman: Edith Wharton & The Will To Collect Books (U. Minnesota, 2020)

Jodi Melamed, “Diversity” in Keywords For American Cultural Studies (NYU, 2020)

Walter D. Mignolo, The Politics of Decolonial Investigations (Duke UP, 2021)

Louis Andrew Murillo, The Golden Dial: Temporal Configuration in Don Quijote (1975)

Louis Andrew Murillo, A Critical Introduction to Don Quixote (Peter Lang, 1988)

Nathan Heller, “The End of The English Major” The New Yorker (February 27, 2023)

Mariana Ortego, “Decolonial Woes & Practices of Un-Knowing” Journal of Speculative Philosophy (Fall 2017)

Ignacio M. Sanchez Prado, “The Humanities Are Worth Fighting For” Los Angeles Review of Books (July 14, 2023)

Ignacio M. Sanchez Prado, Cultural Capital: Reflections from a Latin Americanist” Genre (April 2023)

Ignacio M. Sanchez Prado, “Endless Proliferations of Signifiers: Mexican Culture Studies in the Future Tense” Bulletin of Spanish Studies (September 2023)

Nelly Richard, “Intersecting Latin America with Latin Americanism: Academic Knowledge, Theoretical Practice, & Cultural Criticism” in The Latin American Cultural Studies Reader (Duke UP, 2004)

Rebecca Schuman, “Don’t Ditch Deutsch” Chronicle of Higher Education (August 21, 2013)

Matt Seybold et al, “Ponzi Austerity in The Age of Cultural Abundance” The American Vandal Podcast (August 21, 2023)

Matt Seybold et al, “Hungover From The Bad Old Days of High Theory,” The American Vandal Podcast (August 14, 2023)

Miguel A. Valerio, Sovereign Joy: Afro-Mexican Kings & Queens, 1539-1640 (Cambridge UP, 2022)

Gore Vidal, Dreaming War: Blood For Oil & The Cheney-Bush Junta (Bold Face, 2007)

Raymond Williams, Culture & Society (Chatto & Windus, 1958)

WVU Bibliography:

Nick Anderson, “WVU’s plan to cut foreign languages, other programs draws disbelief” Washington Post (August 18, 2023)

Anonymous WVU Employees, WVU Facts

Dan Bauman, “Why is West Virginia U. Making Sweeping Cuts?” Chronicle of Higher Education (August 11, 2023)

Brian Broome, “My university might cut humanities. I’m frustrated, angry — and afraid.” Washington Post (August 23, 2023)

Lisa M. Corrigan, “The Evisceration of A Public University” The Nation (August 16, 2023)

Len Gutkin, “West Virginia U.’s Budgetary Implosion” The Chronicle Review (August 14, 2023)

Myya Helm, “Everyone at West Virginia University Knew Something Was Up. I Hate That We Were Right.” Slate (August 18, 2023)

Andrew Rupp, “Students Deserve Better From WVU” Charleston Gazette-Mail (August 22, 2023)

Matt Seybold, “Gordon Gee’s Draw Check Scheme” The American Vandal (August 6, 2023)

Leah Willingham & John Raby, “West Virginia University students push back on program and faculty cuts after $45M budget shortfall” Washington Post (August 21, 2023)