The American Vandal Podcast

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Series Ten: Criticism LTD Afterwords

Episode 1: Close Reading Feudalism(s) in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with James Phelan [Project Narrative Crossover] (February 23, 2024)

From the production studios of Ohio State University, American Vandal host, Matt Seybold, and James Phelan, the Director of Project Narrative, read aloud Chapter 18 of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain [3:40], then discuss it [30:00] with emphases on the opportunities the chapter presents for types of close reading.

This episode is a crossover with the Project Narrative podcast, which you can learn more about at

Episode 2: Criticism LTD: Continuing The Dialogue [Project Narrative Event] (February 26, 2024)

Recorded at The Ohio State University, as part of the Project Narrative series, Matt Seybold reflects on the making of “Criticism LTD” [3:15], as well as ongoing Ponzi austerity, reassessment of close reading, and AI speculative euphoria since its conclusion [14:30]. Jim Phelan (Director of Project Narrative) argues for narrative theory’s contributions to literary studies as a discipline [35:30] and they take questions from the audience [47:50].

Cast (in order of appearance): Matt Seybold, James Phelan, Amanpal Garcha, Sandra Macpherson, Brian McHale, Christine Tulley

Series Nine: The Corporate Allegory Binge

Episode 1: Netflix Necrocapitalism & The House of Usher with Jane Hu & Phillip Maciak (December 22, 2023)

A new season on corporate allegory, business melodrama, and new releases from academic presses kicks off with a discussion of the recent Mike Flanagan adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall Of The House of Usher” for Netflix.

Episode 2: Close Reading, Conglomerate Authorship, & Qween Danielle Steel with Dan Sinykin & Johanna Winant (January 2, 2024)

In an episode which operates as both coda to “Criticism LTD” and herald of 2024, Matt Seybold is joined by two scholars working on the complex history and sometimes conflicting methods of close reading. They also discuss the reception of Big Fiction: How Conglomeration Changed The Publishing Industry (Columbia UP, 2023) [31:00] and a bevy of novels by Danielle Steel, including The Promise (1978), Happiness (2023), and Worthy Opponents (2023) [39:00].

Episode 3: iLiberalism, The Morning Show, & The Sheeny Blandness of AppleTV+ with Anna Shectman & Michael Szalay (January 22, 2024)

Our series on corporate allegory continues with an extended discussion of Apple TV+, both its film and television offerings, as well as the relationship between such “content” and the corporation’s primary business: selling iPhones and other hardware. Among the specific works discussed are “Severance,” “Killers Of The Flower Moon,” “Lessons In Chemistry,” “Fingernails,” “Gutsy,” “The Foundation,” “Silo,” “Ted Lasso,” “The Last Thing He Told Me,” and, most extensively, “The Morning Show.”

Episode 4: 2024 with J.D. Connor & Anna Kornbluh (February 5, 2024)

The finale episode of our miniseries on corporate allegory was recorded the day after the publication of Anna Kornbluh’s “Immediacy, or The Style of Too Late Capitalism” by Verso. With numerous allusions to the book, Matt Seybold asks Kornbluh and “City of Industry” blogger J. D. Connor to consider the potential “perfect storm” of media disruption in 2024. Among the topics they cover are the enshittification of social, search, & and streaming, the investor-led rush to profitability justifiying downsizing across media sectors, the speculative euphoria associated with AI-generated art, and the eroding boundaries between media forms.

Series Eight: Criticism LTD.

Criticism LTD. Trailer (July 26, 2023)

A first look at the eighth season of The American Vandal Podcast, an assessment of the contemporary state of literary criticism and literary studies through conversations with more than two dozen scholars, students, editors, working critics, and other creators.

Episode 1: The Golden Age of The Working Critic (August 7, 2023)

The premiere of a new series, “Criticism LTD,” on the contemporary state of criticism. This episode covers proclamations of crisis from legacy media earlier this year, demands for a cosmopolitan turn in literary studies (11:15), an alleged golden age of popular criticism (28:00), and the role of para-academic publications like the Los Angeles Review of Books (54:30).

Cast (in order of appearance): Matt Seybold, John Guillory, Ignacio M. Sanchez Prado, Justin Smith-Ruiu, Ryan Ruby, Michelle Chihara

Episode 2: Hungover From The Bad Old Days of High Theory (August 14, 2023)

What is criticism? Why should it matter? Can it be saved from the gun-toting businessman? A crossover episode with the High Theory podcast connects internal and external crises (6:00), imagines confrontations with gun-toting businessmen (22:00) and sociopathic administrators (33:00), salutes the vanguard of academic labor (45:00), eulogizes the star system (59:00), demystifies the bad old days of high theory (1.13:00), and recommends “The Shush” (1.24:00).

Cast (in order of appearance): Kim Adams, Matt Seybold, Saronik Bosu, John Guillory, Christopher Newfield, Bruce Robbins, Ryan Ruby, Sarah Brouillette, Katie Kadue, Kyla Wazana Tompkins, and Michelle Chihara

Episode 3: Ponzi Austerity in The Age of Cultural Abundance (August 21, 2023)

How has the systemic defunding and deprofessionalizing of humanities academia impacted literary criticism? Why is there such a flourishing culture industry if demand for cultural education is supposedly declining? We look to megatrends like U.S. hegemony, organizations like the MLA (6:30), analogues like the Eurozone Debt Crisis (19:30), mechanisms of funding and distribution (28:00), and potential futures of disruption and declinism (1:01.30).

Cast (in order of appearance): Jed Esty, Matt Seybold, Anna Kornbluh, Christopher Newfield, Yanis Varoufakis

Episode 4: Ponzi Austerity & The Monolingual University (August 24, 2023)

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].

Cast (in order of appearance): Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera, Ignacio M. Sanchez Prado, Matt Seybold, Joe Locke

Episode 5: The Racist Interpretation Complex (August 28, 2023)

What is the political economy of New Criticism? Are the racist and reactionary Cold War politics of the New Critics immanent to their trademark method: close reading? The episode begins with the story of Langston Hughes testifying before the the House Un-American Activities Committee on what goes into the interpretation of a poem. What constitutes “tactical criticism” [9:00]? Critics try to rescue close reading from the “bad politics” at its origins [38:00], endorse supplementary methods [59:00], and describe how New Criticism looks from outside the U.S. and U.K. [1:07.30].

Cast (in order of appearance): Langston Hughes, Andy Hines, Matt Seybold, Jed Esty, John Guillory, Anna Kornbluh, Christopher Newfield, Ignacio M. Sanchez Prado

Episode 6: The Chicago Fight & “Criticism Inc.” (September 5, 2023)

A deep dive into the Chicago Critics who inspired John Crowe Ransom’s 1937 essay, “Criticism Inc.,” as well as their working conditions at the University of Chicago under Robert Maynard Hutchins. His implementation of “The Chicago Plan” and the resulting “Chicago Fight” [9:00], the afterlives of the Chicago Critics in contemporary literary studies [30:00], the import of the Walgreen Hearings [49:00], and the seeding of the Chicago School of Economics.

Cast (in order of appearance): Matt Seybold, Bruce Robbins, Anna-Dorothea Schneider, John Guillory, Harold Langer, Edward Nik-Khah, Robert Maynard Hutchins

Episode 7: The Chicago Fight & Economics Imperialism (September 11, 2023)

The Chicago Critics won the Chicago Fight of the 1930s, but they lost the Chicago Cold War. Chicago Economics got its start dismantling the Chicago Plan. This episode covers the brief victory of the Neo-Aristotelians, the long tail of Economics Imperialism [18:30], the rivalry between economics and literary criticism [39:00], the Chicago Economists’ parody of “Treasure Island” [55:00], the implicit alliance between Chicago Economics and the New Critics [60:00], and Robert Hutchins’s dream of “The University of Utopia” [72:00]

Cast (in order of appearance): Edward Nik-Khah, Matt Seybold, Studs Terkel, Robert Hutchins, Anna-Dorothea Schneider, Christopher Newfield, Anna Kornbluh

Episode 8: Politics & The Paracademy (September 23, 2023)

An attempt to triangulate politicization, professionalization, and publication by examining several periods in the history of criticism. The episode begins with Joe Locke describing an overt turn towards social justice in his music following police murder of George Floyd, followed by a discussion of the misperception of “Professing Criticism” as a call to depoliticize [7:00]. An epilogue to “The Chicago Fight” [17:00] and humanist criticism [24:00]. Discussion of the implicit politics of the paracademy [51:00], its emergence in response to conglomeration [56:00], and the reemergence of patronage [68:00] precede profile of Las Vegas Review of Books [81:00] and epilogue at University of Puerto Rico [100:30].

Cast (in order of appearance): Matt Seybold, Joe Locke, Bruce Robbins, John Guillory, Eddie Nik-Khah, Tom Lutz, Katie Kadue, John Hay, Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera

Episode 9: Brittle Paper & The Blogossance (October 2, 2023)

What is the relationship between literary criticism and media studies? How has criticism adapted to the digital revolution? These questions are considered by examining the origins of the blogosphere [5:00], its recent reemergence [17:00], the specific case of “Brittle Paper” [29:00], and strategies of adaptation within the profession [46:00]. The episode then turns to two examinations of multimedia parasitical criticism: Jacque Derrida’s “Limited Inc.” [60:00] and Ryan Ruby’s “Context Collapse” [71:00].

Cast (in order of appearance): Ainehi Edoro, Matt Seybold, Howard Rambsy, Sheri-Marie Harrison, John Guillory, Ryan Ruby

Episode 10: BookTube, BookTok, Wattpad, & The Audible Creation Exchange (October 12, 2023)

What is literary knowledge? And, for that matter, what is literature? A survey of new literary media takes on audiobooks [5:00], BookTube and BookTok [26:00], and Wattpad [75:00].

Cast (in order of appearance): Christopher Newfield, Matt Seybold, Laura McGrath, Mark McGurl, Sarah Brouillette

Episode 11: Criticism in The Conglomerate Era (October 17, 2023)

As mass-market literature has been consolidated into a small handful of publishing conglomerates, the critical work once done by publicity and editorial departments has been offloaded. In this episode we discuss the rise of literary agents and their function as critics [8:00] and the role of literary awards in canon formation and other processes of homogenization [28:00]. Finally, we ask, can criticism be a countervailing force against conglomeration? [60:00]

Cast (in order of appearance): Dan Sinykin, Matt Seybold, Laura McGrath, Sheri-Marie Harrison, Ainehi Edoro, Howard Rambsy

Episode 12: Podcasting Criticism (October 27, 2023)

An appropriately rangy discussion of the podcast medium and its debts to existing print and audio forms. The origin story of The American Vandal Podcast is followed by comparison with several other podcasts, including Revisionist History [11:30], Remarkable Receptions [30:00], and High Theory [68:00], interspersed with analysis of editing as criticism [50:00], the conservative traditions of orality and radio [60:00], and how podcasting might by made to “count” for disciplinary professionalization [90:00].

Cast (in order of appearance): Sheri-Marie Harrison, Matt Seybold, Joe Locke, Kim Adams, Saronik Bosu, Howard Rambsy II

Episode 13: Ed Tech, AI, & The Unbundling of Research & Teaching (November 2, 2023)

A sometimes uncanny Halloween week exploration of the EdTech griftopia. Who’s monetizing our data? How is EdTech being used to bust unions [8:00]? How does EdTech reveal the interdependence of teaching and research, and the horror of their unbundling [36:00]? How does being a union member effect literary studies research [61:00]? Is AI the end of literary criticism [81:00]?

Cast (in order of appearance): Annie McClanahan, Sarah Brouillette, Matt Seybold, Bryan Alexander, Brian Deyo, Louise McCune, Max Chapnick, Lawrence Lorraine Mullen, Francesca Colonese, Ted Underwood

Episode 14: The Empire of Criticism, Part I (November 17, 2023)

The tripartite finale of “Criticism LTD” begins with a the feud between Matthew Arnold and Mark Twain, followed by “Bed Glee” [14:00], “Outing Criticism” [40:00], and “The Fate of Professional Reading” [59:00]

Cast (in order of appearance): Beci Carver, Kim Adams, Ryan Ruby, Ainehi Edoro, Jed Esty, Matt Seybold, Gerald Graff, Harry Stecopoulos

Episode 15: The Empire of Criticism, Part II (November 20, 2023)

In the second part of the finale of “Criticism LTD,” we hear about the origins of Jacque Derrida’s “Limited Inc.” from its editor, the fraught alliance between criticism and history [17:00], the Center For The Literary Arts at Washington University in St. Louis [33.00], the transition from creative writer to working critic [62:00], and critical vocationalism [72:00].

Cast (in order of appearance): Gerald Graff, Matt Seybold, Jed Esty, Ignacio Infante, Danielle Dutton, Ryan Ruby

Episode 16: The Empire of Criticism, Part III (November 21, 2023)

“Criticism LTD” concludes its lengthy examination of the unanswerable questions about the state of literary studies with a length consideration of “The Future of Decline” [8:00], the delusion of progress [16:00], the British model of declinist politics [22:00] and literary criticism [29:00], an insider’s account of the long tail of “The Chicago Fight” [45:00], the libertarian rejoinder [54:00], and the curriculum of cruelty [61:00].

Cast (in order of appearance): Kim Adams, Saronik Bosu, Matt Seybold, Jed Esty, Bruce Robbins, Beci Carver, Gerald Graff, Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera

Special 50th Episode: Working Conditions with Christopher Newfield & Anna Kornbluh #MLA2023 (January 4, 2023)

On the eve of the largest annual gathering of literary studies scholars, a discussion of the presidential theme of this year’s convention, Working Conditions, with the MLA President who chose that theme.

Series Seven: Social Problems

Episode 1: The Collapse of Twitter, Zombie Cyberlibertarianism, & Commercial Content Moderation with Sarah T. Roberts (November 18, 2022)

With the end of Twitter seemingly imminent, content moderation and social media expert, Sarah T. Roberts, discusses Elon Musk’s ideology, the labor of social media, and the migration to Mastodon.

Episode 2: The Plausible End of Social Media, Descaling, & The Latent Celebrity Mindset with Ian Bogost (November 23, 2022)

Earlier this month, The Atlantic published an essay by our guest, Ian Bogost, titled “The Age of Social Media is Ending.” Since then there have been layoffs at several social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, and collapsing stock prices throughout the industry. What’s happening? And what’s next?

Episode 3: Reckless Monetization, Surveillance Kleptocracy, & Olivia Snow’s Villain Origin Story (December 7, 2022)

As the Elon Musk era at Twitter descends ever further into chaos, we discuss the canaries in the coal mine of surveillance, shadowbanning, algorithmic censorship, data firesales, and deplatforming: sex workers.

Episode 4: The Twitter Elegies (& Mastodon Scolds) with Rebecca Colesworthy & Jeff Jarvis (December 19, 2022)

Two scholars embedded in publishing discuss the impact of chaos at Twitter and in social media more generally upon journalism and academic presses. Also, some brief discussion of “The Twitter Files” and Mastodon migration.

Series Six: HBO, From Pulp To Prestige

Episode 1: Puzzles of Collective Intention, Corporate Authorship, Family Business Insurrection, & HBO’s Succession with Lisa Siraganian & Michael Szalay (September 13, 2022)

Our sixth season kicks off with a discussion of conglomeration, collective intention, and corporate authorship through HBO’s original programming and especially Succession, the Emmy-winning tentpole drama produced by Jesse Armstrong and Adam McKay.

Episode 2: The Rehearsal, Reality TV, & Warner Bros Discovery with J. D. Connor & Olivia Stowell (September 20, 2022)

Is Nathan Fielder’s “The Rehearsal” a critique of Reality TV? Moreover, might it be read as an attack on HBO’s new parent company, Warner Bros Discovery? A conversation about the show, the network, the conglomerate, and the streaming wars.

Episode 3: The Sopranos Revival (Remember The End of The End of History?) with Peter Coviello & Xine Yao (September 29, 2022)

No single program transformed the HBO brand like “The Sopranos,” which became a hit all over again upon the launch of HBOMax in the midst of the 2020 lockdown.

Episode 4: Rooting For Everybody Black in the Issa Rae Extended University with Jalylah Burrell & Danielle Fuentes Morgan (October 15, 2022)

Inspired by HBO shows “Insecure” and “Rap Sh!t,” as well as Yvonne Orji’s new stand-up special and recent Emmy wins for Quinta Brunson’s “Abbott Elementary” and Jerrod Carmichael’s “Rothaniel,” Matt Seybold discusses the often precarious role of Black comic creators with two scholars of race, gender, and comedy in the U.S.

Episode 5: Industry Cringe & Reproductive Horror with Johanna Isaacson & Madeline Lane-McKinley (October 25, 2022)

A ranging conversation inspired by two forthcoming books about genre, work, and visual culture. The authors consider HBO series like “The Baby,” “Barry,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “The Larry Sanders Show.”

Episode 6: Dance of The Cash Dragons with Aaron Bady, Michelle Chihara, & Sarah Mesle (November 4, 2022)

The series finale finds “Dear Television” correspondents joining the podcast to discuss the Fall 2022 franchise season, foremost HBO’s “House of the Dragon,” but also Disney+’s “Andor” and Amazon’s “Rings of Power.”

Series Five: Mark Twain Among The Indians

Guest Host & Co-Producer: Mika Turim-Nygren

Episode 1: Reviewing Mark Twain Among The Indians with John Bird, Susan K. Harris, & Ann Ryan (July 25, 2022)

A new series hosted by Mika Turim-Nygren premieres with a discussion of Kerry Driscoll’s 2019 book, “Mark Twain Among The Indians & Other Indigenous Peoples,” featuring three established scholars in Twain Studies, all of whom regard in as one of the most important works in the field in the past quarter century.

Episode 2: Talking Mark Twain Among The Indians with Kerry Driscoll (August 1, 2022)

This seminal book in Twain Studies was a decades-long undertaking. Kerry Driscoll explains how she became “an accidental Twain scholar,” and discusses with Mika Turim-Nygren the multifold archival discoveries – “good instincts and good luck” – which took Mark Twain Among The Indians from a short paper to a magnum opus.

Episode 3: Reconsidering Mark Twain Among The Indians with Herman Fillmore & Drew Lopenzina (August 8, 2022)

In the concluding episode of our series on Kerry Driscoll’s field-shaping book, Mika Turim-Nygren seeks reception of the work in Native Studies and from Native communities.

Series Four: The World’s Work

Episode 1: A Hedge Fund With A Drone Fleet: EdWork in 2022 with Annie McClanahan & Asheesh Kapur Siddique (January 31, 2022)

“The World’s Work” begins with a discussion of student debt, faculty deskilling, outsourcing, adjunctification, EdTech, and the financialization of U.S. higher education.

Episode 2: “Are We All Porn Workers Now?”: Gigwork & Radical Flexibility with Heather Berg & Michelle Chihara (February 7, 2022)

A ranging conversation with two scholars – Heather Berg (Porn Work: Sex, Labor, & Late Capitalism) and Michelle Chihara (“Radical Flexibility: Driving for Lyft & The Future of Work in The Platform Economy”) – about platform capitalism from the perspective of gigworkers.

Episode 3: Bootstrapping Across Dystopia: Autofiction, Autotheory, Autoeverything with Merve Emre & Anna Kornbluh (February 14, 2022)

A conversation about the personal essay boom, iterations of the memoir in other literary genres, the constructive use of social media, the style of “too late capitalism,” and other means of self-indulgence with two decorated literary critics and theorists.

Episode 4: Decommodified Labor, Selling Out, & Other Compromises of The Great Resignation with Leigh Claire La Berge & Rachel Greenwald Smith (February 23, 2022)

How do we explain the Great Resignation? Or, for that matter, other mysteries of the contemporary economy, like the high price of culture work and the low wages of culture workers? Two scholars of Post45 literature and culture discuss the work of art and the art of work.

Episode 5: Working For The New Yorker: Putting The Historicity Back In The French Dispatch with Nora Shaalan & Dan Sinykin (March 8, 2022)

Wes Anderson’s acclaimed new movie, The French Dispatch, draws inspiration from the Golden Age of The New Yorker magazine, a period from roughly the early 1940s to the mid 1970s. This episode features two scholars researching that period in the publication’s history. They are uniquely situated to consider the selections from the magazine’s back catalog which make Anderson’s cut, as well as what he chooses to leave out.

Episode 6: Bullshit Jobs, Fuck Work, & The Legacy of David Graeber with James Livingston & Corey McCall (March 18, 2022)

Is is possible to imagine a world without work? Or, at least, a world in which work is not romanticized, is not treated as defining element of social and individual achievement? James Livingston has predicted that we need to prepare for a postwork world, and David Graeber has challenged us to imagine alternatives to organization by bureaucracy, credit, and corporations. This episode features Livingston talking to Matt Seybold and Corey McCall about Graeber’s posthumous book (The Dawn of Everything), the Great Resignation, QuitToks, Risk Shifts, and much more.

Worldwide Climate Teach-In Special Episode: Ministry For The Future with Sheri-Marie Harrison, Anna Kornbluh, & Min Hyoung Song (March 30, 2022)

Produced in observance of and solidarity with the Worldwide Teach-In On Climate & Justice taking place on many campuses today, including Elmira College, we host discussion of a CliFi novel by Kim Stanley Robinson which helps us get “Beyond Climate Despair.”

Series Three: Vandalizing The Chair

Episode 1: A Chair On The Chair with Karen Tongson (August 27, 2021)

The new Netflix original series, The Chair, focus on the first woman of color to Chair the English Department at fictional Pembroke University. Dr. Karen Tongson (University of Southern California) can empathize with this character, played by Sandra Oh, but she is also an exceptional media critic. She talks with Matt Seybold about the reception of The Chair, its representation of literary studies, and where it fits in the history of the U.S. sitcom.

Episode 2: The Shush (& The Chair) with Kyla Wazana Tompkins & Michelle Chihara (September 1, 2021)

In her recent PMLA essay, “The Shush,” Kyla Wazana Tompkins writes, “The future of the English department cannot be the same as its past.” The recent Netflix original series, “The Chair,” offers one vision of that past and thus serves to generate conversation about “The Shush,” the state of literary studies, and higher education.

Episode 3: Antiracism In The Contemporary University with Amanda Bailey, Tita Chico, & Emily Yoon Perez (September 9, 2021)

A discussion of the Antiracism project sponsored by University of Maryland’s Center For Literary & Comparative Studies with three faculty members heavily involved in the project, as well as their insights into the Netflix original series, The Chair, which dramatizes a contemporary university English department.

Episode 4: Showtime’s Billions & COVID Form with Anna Kornbluh & Devin William Daniels (October 8, 2021)

The season finale of Billions aired exactly 17 months after the season premiere. This was not by design. In this episode, scholars of finance and popular culture discuss the popular Showtime series and how its handling of the pandemic disruption is represented in both content and form.

Season Two: 2021

Episode 1: The Myths of Reconstruction in the Wake of Insurrection with Brook Thomas (January 15, 2021)

Following the storming of the Capitol Building on January 6th, there has been a resurgent interest in the era of Reconstruction following the American Civil War. Senators, journalists, and even scholars have perpetuated long-standing myths about Reconstruction. Brook Thomas explains and debunks some of these myths, while also arguing that an informed reckoning with the unfinished business of Reconstruction can help us understand and address the political volatility of the present day.

Episode 2: Robinhood, r/WallStreetBets, Who’s Yellen Now, & The GameStop-ification of Finance with Anna Kornbluh, Leigh Claire La Berge, & Michelle Chihara (February 11, 2021)

Three scholars of finance and literature join to talk about the ongoing story of the “Reddit Revolution,” members of the r/WallStreetBets forum who organized a run on several stocks, notably GameStop, using the retail trading app, Robinhood. How is this speculative mania interconnected with the 2008 financial crisis, the current economic recession, and the new U.S. Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen?

Episode 3: Project Huckleberry (a.k.a. The Mandalorian) with Emmet Asher-Perrin & Nathaniel Williams (February 23, 2021)

The hit Disney+ & Lucasfilm TV series, The Mandalorian, was produced under the working title of “Project Huckleberry.” This allusion the Mark Twain’s under-appreciated legacy as an innovator in Science Fiction provides the grounds for a ranging conversation about Star Wars, The Mandalorian, and genre fiction with Emmet Asher-Perrin of & Nathaniel Williams of UC-Davis.

Episode 4: Unsealing The Archive of T. S. Eliot’s Love Letters to Emily Hale with Frances Dickey, Megan Quigley, & John Whittier-Ferguson (March 16, 2021)

Very few embargoed archives are as momentous as Mark Twain’s Autobiography, released a century after his death, but the Hale archive, opened last year, is an obvious rival. Emily Hale saved over a thousand letters from the poet and critic, T. S. Eliot, with whom she had a decades-long love affair. In this episode, we talk to three scholars who spent portions of 2020 reading the letters and processing their many surprising revelations.

Episode 5: A Music Box, Minstrel Songs, & Mark Twain’s Emo Playlist with Erin Bartram & Kerry Driscoll (March 31, 2021)

This episode brings together three scholars who have been researching and writing about Mark Twain’s musical tastes and the role of music education and performance in the Clemens family household.

Episode 6: The Suez Canal, #Stuckboat, & The Sinew of War and Trade with Laleh Khalili (April 8, 2021)

Following on the heels of the grounding of the Ever Given in the Suez Canal last month, Matt Seybold speaks with Dr. Laleh Khalili, whose 2020 book, Sinews of War & Trade: Shipping & Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula, covers the history, present, & potential futures of maritime transport.

Bonus Episode: Recordings for Hal Bush & Hiroko Bush (April 26, 2021)

A beloved member of the Mark Twain Studies community, author, and St. Louis University Professor, Hal Bush, recently suffered a traumatic brain injury which has put him into a coma. In this episode, friends and fellow scholars read to him from a series of his favorite works, mostly by Mark Twain. Special Thanks to St. Louis University for providing theme music for this episode, a composition by Roberto Murguia and Róisín Malone.

Episode 8: Exterminate All The Brutes with Sheri-Marie Harrison, Andrew Hoberek, & Ignacio Sanchez Prado (May 4, 2021)

The recent HBO documentary series, directed by Raoul Peck, offers a grand narrative of European colonialism and American imperialism which is broadly sympathetic with the works of Mark Twain from the final decade of his life. In this episode, a diverse group of scholars discuss Peck’s film, as well as where it fits in global cinema, the U.S. media ecosystem, and postcolonial scholarship.

Episode 9: Mark Twain, Journalism, & The Search For Genus Americanus with Loren Ghiglione, Alyssa Karas, & Dan Tham (May 19, 2021)

The authors of Genus Americanus (2020) join host Matt Seybold to discuss their 2011 road trip. Inspired by Mark Twain, they went looking for American identity through interviews with other journalists, scholars, immigrants, and nomads. What did the find? And how has it shaped their understanding of the decade which followed?

Episode 10: Teaching With Tension & The Illusion of Postracialism with Lee Bebout, Philathia Bolton, & Cassander Smith (June 15, 2021)

The co-editors of a new collection on “Race, Resistance, & Reality in The Classroom” discuss the “flash point” of 2008 for American education, the recent Critical Race Theory panic, pedagogical strategies for teaching with tension, and Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Episode 11: Generation Z, Mark Twain’s Poetry, & Teaching English From East Texas To Harvard with Jocelyn Chadwick (June 18, 2021)

The coordinators of the 2021 Summer Teachers Institute sponsored by the Center For Mark Twain Studies converse about the upcoming event, the state of U.S. education, the resonance of Mark Twain for contemporary students, and much more.

Episode 12: Why Trust In Antitrust? with Sanjukta Paul & Marshall Steinbaum (July 1, 2021)

With a series of recent events indicating bipartisan interest in antitrust reform from Congress and the Supreme Court, host Matt Seybold speaks with Law Professor, Sanjukta Paul, and economist, Marshall Steinbaum, about the history of antitrust movements in the United States from Mark Twain’s Gilded Age to the New Gilded Age, as well as why they advocate for antitrust as a mechanism for improving worker welfare, reducing inequality, and protecting democracy.

Special Episode: The Invisible Home of Frederick Douglass, John W. Jones, & Mark Twain with Jill Spivey Caddell & Shirley Samuels (August 6, 2021)

On a special Emancipation Week episode, three scholars with both personal and professional ties to the Southern Tier of New York, discuss the recently-reconstructed speech by Frederick Douglass which was part of the Emancipation Day celebration which took place in Elmira in August of 1880.

Season One: Fall 2020

Episode 1: James Redpath, Bleeding Kansas, & The Networks of Disunion (October 12, 2020)

Mark Twain’s publicist and booking agent, proprietor of the Boston Lyceum Bureau, started his career as a hardscrabble freelance journalist. He discovered he had a knack for star-making long before he met Mark Twain. Matt Seybold tells the largely forgotten tale of James Redpath becoming John Brown’s “right hand man” on the cusp of the Civil War. This episode is part of “The Viral Twain” panel at Virtual C19.

Episode 2: The Viral Reprinting of Mark Twain’s Hawaii Jokes & Mark Twain Meets Dracula (October 12, 2020)

This episode begins with Todd Nathan Thompson’s paper for “The Viral Twain” panel at Virtual C19. Dr. Thompson tracks how Twain’s jokes based on his visit to Hawaii were reprinted and often misprinted in the 1870s and 1880s, as Twain was increasingly approached as a pundit on annexation. The second half of the episode (24:00) contained Mark Dawidziak’s Trouble Begins Lecture about the influence of Twain on Bram Stoker.

Episode 3: Mark Twain, The World, & Susan K. Harris (October 26, 2020)

Susan K. Harris, author of “Mark Twain, The World, & Me: Following the Equator, Then & Now,” sits down with Matt Seybold to discuss the project that took her to Australia, India, New Zealand, and South Africa, among other places, and found her examining her own life and career, as well as the author whose footsteps she was following in.

Episode 4: Elmira Correctional Facility & The Prison Fix with Andrea Morrell (October 30, 2020)

With the backdrop of a large COVID-19 outbreak within its walls, Andrea Morrell talks to Matt Seybold about Elmira Correctional Facility, one of the oldest continuously-operational prisons in the United States. What does it mean to be a “prison town”? How has the prison system changed during the long history of ECF? What does the current outbreak reveal about its future?

Episode 5: American Humor & Matters of Empire with Judith Yaross Lee (November 2, 2020)

Coming off the 2020 Quarry Farm Symposium which she organized, Judith Yaross Lee talks with Matt Seybold about her ongoing project, the disciplinary history of American Humor Studies, romantic comedies, Amy Kaplan, and much more.

Episode 6: The New Black Gothic & Lovecraft Country with Sheri-Marie Harrison (November 11, 2020)

The Gothic has been, since Mark Twain’s time, a popular way for artists to reckon with the life and afterlife of American slavery. But only recently has a Gothic tradition emerged which places black protagonists and black perspectives at its center. The recent HBO series, Lovecraft Country, is exemplary of what Sheri-Marie Harrison has dubbed New Black Gothic. In this episode she talks about the show and the artistic movement it is a part of.

Episode 7: Mark Twain, James Redpath, & The Vigilante Origins of American Police (November 23, 2020)

Concluding the 2020 Trouble Begins Lecture Series, Matt Seybold interposes the early careers of Mark Twain and James Redpath, both of whom, in the years surrounding the American Civil War, denounced police forces in Charleston and San Francisco for violently oppressing people of color. What does it mean to be a witness?

Episode 8: Dave Chappelle & Killjoy Comedy with Jalylah Burrell, Bambi Haggins, & Maggie Hennefeld (December 1, 2020)

American Humor Studies scholars Jalylah Burrell, Bambi Haggins, and Maggie Hennefeld join host Matt Seybold to discuss the recent work of stand-up comic Dave Chappelle, especially his free half-hour routine, “8:46,” released directly to YouTube the month after the murder of George Floyd.

Episode 9: Good Lord Bird & John Brown in Ethan Hawke’s America with Jeffrey Insko & Ashley Rattner (December 14, 2020)

James McBride’s retelling of John Brown’s epochal raid on Harpers Ferry through the eyes of a young black man won the National Book Award in 2013 and was recently adapted into a Showtime miniseries by Ethan Hawke. Two scholars of antebellum abolitionism discuss Good Lord Bird and, more generally, rising popular interest in the events leading up to the American Civil War.

Episode 10: DEEP CUTS BOOK CLUB #1 Mark Twain’s “Letter From Santa Claus” with Mark Dawidziak, Penne Restad, & Jana Tigchelaar (December 18, 2020)

This episode focuses on a letter Mark Twain composed for his three-year-old daughter on Christmas 1875. After actor Mark Dawidziak reads the letter, Matt Seybold hosts a book club style discussion with Penne Restad and Jana Tigchelaar, two scholars who have done extensive research on the development of Christmas traditions in Nineteenth-Century America.

Bonus Episode: The Gospel of Revolt: Mark Twain in Elmira with Hal Holbrook & Will Holbrook

Did you know that Mark Twain’s father-in-law lobbied for the release of a young woman arrested under the Fugitive Slave Law in 1853? That Twain’s grave lies in a cemetery with numerous conductors and stationmasters on the Underground Railroad? That Twain’s eulogy was given by the first woman ordained in the state of New York? With the help of Oscar-nominated actor, Hal Holbrook, and his grandson, Will Holbrook, Matt Seybold explores the largely forgotten and often surprising political history of the small town where the Center for Mark Twain Studies is located.

This episode was originally produced for the official podcast of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists. They are currently soliciting proposals for new episodes. For more information, visit

Bonus Episode: Center for Mark Twain Studies 2020 Debrief From Quarry Farm with Joe Lemak & Steve Webb

The staff of the Center for Mark Twain Studies gathers in the library at Quarry Farm to discuss the recently-announced Quarry Farm Fellowships for the coming year, the peculiarities of living and working on the property, and the past and future of CMTS.

Primary Host & Executive Producer: Matt Seybold (Associate Professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies, Scholar-in-Residence at CMTS)