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Weekly interviews about culture, literature and the arts
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The Custom House – Henceforth Be Masterless: D. H. Lawrence on the Idea of America (Extended Cut)

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We like to think of the old-fashioned American classics as children’s books. Just childishness, on our part. The old American art-speech contains an alien quality, which belongs to the American continent and to nowhere else. But, of course, so long as we insist on reading the books as children’s tales, we miss all that.

That’s a line from the introductory chapter to D. H. Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature. We’ll explore this spirited and vital work of appreciation and criticism as a great investigation of the body and soul in America Letters.

In this episode of The Custom House we let D. H. Lawrence do the talking. His Studies in Classic American Literature is a powerful and incisive investigation of American personality done through a thorough reading the literature of  “this evening land”.  For the radio we introduce the book and then present a reading of Chapter One, “The Spirit of Place.”

The extended cut replaces Chapter One with excerpts from the chapters on Whitman, Benjamin Franklin, and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

The Custom House – Episode 13: “Henceforth Be Masterless: D. H. Lawrence on the Idea of America”

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WE like to think of the old-fashioned American classics as children’s books. Just childishness, on our part. The old American art-speech contains an alien quality, which belongs to the American continent and to nowhere else. But, of course, so long as we insist on reading the books as children’s tales, we miss all that.

That’s a line from the introductory chapter to D. H. Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature. We’ll explore this spirited and vital work of appreciation and criticism as a great investigation of the body and soul in America Letters.

In this episode of The Custom House we let D. H. Lawrence do the talking. His Studies in Classic American Literature is a powerful and incisive investigation of American personality done through a thorough reading the literature of “this evening land.” For the radio we introduce the book and then present a reading of Chapter One, “The Spirit of Place.”

The Custom House – Episode 12: The Purse Turned Inside Out: Engendering Personalities in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

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On this episode of The Custom House we’ll investigate the erotic entanglements of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to try to find out just who wears the pants in this comedy.

In this episode of The Custom House we discuss the way attraction is personal and often independent of social codes and biology. Joined by Linda Charnes, a professor in the English Department at Indiana University whose work focuses on the uses of Shakespeare in the arenas of mass culture, literature, film, and contemporary international politics, we discuss Shakespeare’s mid-career comedy Twelfth Night, or What You Will.

The Custom House – The Purse Turned Inside Out: Engendering Personalities in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (Extended Conversation w/Linda Charnes)

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On this episode of The Custom House we’ll investigate the erotic entanglements of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to try to find out just who wears the pants in this comedy.

In this episode of The Custom House we discuss the way attraction is personal and often independent of social codes and biology. Joined by Linda Charnes, a professor in the English Department at Indiana University whose work focuses on the uses of Shakespeare in the arenas of mass culture, literature, film, and contemporary international politics, we discuss Shakespeare’s mid-career comedy Twelfth Night, or What You Will.

This extended cut deepens the discussion as we look more extensively at the way social codes inhibit and limit “what we will” in our lives. We also discuss the uses of Shakespeare directly or as inspiration in pop culture such as in the “Shakespearean” television program Deadwood.

The Custom House – When Between Two Infinities, Go All In: Reading Pascal’s Pensées (Extended Conversation w/ Hall Bjornstad)

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In this episode of The Custom House we’re joined by Hall Bjornstad, an assistant professor of French in the French and Italian Department at Indiana University. We’ll be discussing the 17th century religious thinker and mathematical genius Blaise Pascal to see if we can find ways to fail better by reading his collection of fragments titled the Pensées where he has written, “Men are so necessarily mad that it would be another twist of madness not to be mad.” In this radio cut we discuss what is likely the most famous fragment, the one called “The Wager,” as well as the section often referred to as “The Two Infinities.” This extended cut focuses on the Pensées fragments labeled “Diversion.” We also confront Pascal’s own “conversion experience” represented in a fragment scholar’s have called The Memorial. This short piece resembles the poetry of religious mysticism and which, upon Pascal’s death, was discovered sewn into his clothing positioned over his heart. He had told no one about the experience.

The Custom House – Episode 10: “The Ruins of Biblical Hegemony: A Tale Told at Qumran”

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On this episode of The Custom House we’ll find out how the multifaceted world of the early Jewish literary imagination has been flattened and relegated to serving only as a signpost pointing toward the Bible.

In this episode of The Custom House on WFHB we speak with Eva Mroczek, Assistant Professor in the Jewish Studies and Religious Studies Department at Indiana University about how the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran reveal a dynamic Jewish literary imagination limited by the hegemonic gravity of the biblical canon.

The Custom House – Bringing Down the House: Force and Guile in Milton’s Samson Agonistes (Extended Conversation w/Penelope Anderson)

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On this episode of The Custom House we’ll investigate the claims of Milton’s Samson as he argues his holy dispensation as a divine right to be violent and deceitful in marriage as in war.

In this episode of The Custom House we turn to 17th century English poet John Milton for an assessment of love and marriage, or perhaps of lust and betrayal as presented in his play Samson Agonistes published in 1671. On hand to assist us in this is Penelope Anderson an assistant professor in the English Department here at Indiana University whose research aims to show the longstanding historical intersections between the legal and conceptual frameworks of political prisoner, slave, and subjected woman, in order to reveal a new genealogy of human rights articulated in their suspension.

This extended cut includes two more readings of the text. One is a back-and-forth between Samson and Dalila, lines 732-996; the other comprises lines 1629-1659 where a messenger describes Samson pulling down the pillars supporting the “theatre” (in Milton’s word; the biblical word is “house”).

The Custom House – Episode 9: “Bringing Down the House: Force and Guile in Milton’s Samson Agonistes”

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On this episode of The Custom House we’ll investigate the claims of Milton’s Samson as he argues his holy dispensation as a divine right to be violent and deceitful in marriage as in war.

In this episode of The Custom House we turn to 17th century English poet John Milton for an assessment of love and marriage, or perhaps of lust and betrayal as presented in his play Samson Agonistes published in 1671. On hand to assist us in this is Penelope Anderson an assistant professor in the English Department here at Indiana University whose research aims to show the longstanding historical intersections between the legal and conceptual frameworks of political prisoner, slave, and subjected woman, in order to reveal a new genealogy of human rights articulated in their suspension.

The Custom House – Episode 8: “Who Has the Right to Judge?”

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On this episode of The Custom House we’ll use the work of political theorist Hannah Arendt to try to understand how committing heinous crimes against our neighbors can, under the right conditions, simply be considered normal.

In this episode of The Custom House we speak with Ben Robinson, associate professor in the German Department at Indiana University, about discretion and judgement. We use the work of Hannah Arendt to think about how we understand the concepts of evil, the ideal, and identity in the “post-Eichmann” age of socialized banality.

The Custom House – Who Has the Right to Judge? (Extended Conversation w/Benjamin Robinson)

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On this episode of The Custom House we’ll use the work of political theorist Hannah Arendt to try to understand how committing heinous crimes against our neighbors can, under the right conditions, simply be considered normal. In this episode of The Custom House we speak with Ben Robinson, associate professor in the German Department at Indiana University, about discretion and judgement. We use the work of Hannah Arendt to think about how we understand the concepts of evil, the ideal, and identity in the “post-Eichmann” age of socialized banality. The extended cut includes discussions of Arendt’s Vita Active detailed in her book The Human Condition. We understand how a totalitarian state (be it governmental, i.e., the Leviathan, or an inverted “social/commercial engine” as described by Sheldon Wolin) collapses human work into mere labor. Arendt understands real freedom as Action and this is primarily action at some risk in the polis. This is distinguished against the risklessness of social media and “like” button.

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