How to Read

Brief conversations with brilliant minds.  How to Read is a podcast for curious readers of all kinds, staging conversations with literary scholars and philosophers about their own pedagogical insights, contentions or strategies.  The tone is casual, even cozy (as tea gets poured and shared between the host and guest), but the themes are conceptually rich and often relevant to pressing current social and political issues.  The tea-pouring that occurs in each episode might seem innocuous, but it works to remind listeners that scholars are embodied people, who have their own idiosyncrasies and preferences.  In other words, this podcast is a great resource for inviting students to resist the persuasiveness of “brilliant minds,” at least insofar as brilliance sometimes is a proxy for disembodied, universal voices of authority.

Especially teachable episodes

   The podcast’s first episode is a great template for audio that is “teachable”. It would work well as a prompt for students who are, themselves, hoping to create theoretically rigorous, listenable audio. This episode, Intriguing Opening Sentences, features Jenny Davidson, who turns to a pile of her own favourite novels and reads out their first sentences– going on to explain the import of these sentences for the plot, genre, form or other key parts of fiction.

   Episode 9, How to Read Philosophy, features Kwame Anthony Appiah, discussing an often-highly-under-theorized aspect of philosophy: namely, the import of style.  This episode would work beautifully at the beginning of an introduction to philosophy course, as a way to invite students to think differently about the “genre” or form of philosophical writing.  It would also prompt fascinating conversation in upper-division philosophy courses, especially since Appiah stages his own, perhaps surprising readings of a great range of philosophers (moving from Derrida and Nietzsche to Quine, and then to Montaigne and Kant).