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James Robertson and Penny Fielding

Apr 1, 2021

Getting Into Other Worlds

James Robertson with Penny Fielding

New Books Network 2021

James Robertson, brilliant author of The Testament of Gideon Mack, and University of Edinburgh’s top prof. Penny Fielding beam in from their respective corners of Scotland. Extensive reference is made to (John’s madly beloved) James Hogg and to Robert Louis Stevenson, especially his Jack-the-Ripperesque Jekyll and Hyde. The violence that underpins slavery–aye, even in Scotland, and even during the enduringly influential Scottish Enlightenment–is dredged up, as is the question of feeling implicated in the legacy of an enslaving system. James sketches a generous theory about what and how a novel signifies: it is simply asleep until a reader picks it up and invests imagination into it. Hints are dropped regarding James’s newest novel, News of the Dead due for release in May. And, of course, we learn about his writerly treat…

Mentioned in the Episode

  • Louis L’Amour, J. T. Edson and Will Henry
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, Jekyll and Hyde, Weir of Hermiston (“a tragic part of his life….and I’d like to finish it for him”)
  • James Hogg, The Private Memoir and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
  • Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (imagine watching during its first release and…. not knowing!
  • Joseph Knight…..and the actual Joseph Knight (“a history I didn’t know, and I’d done two history degrees!”)
  • The Fanatic
  • Edinburgh’s Dundas Statue
  • Johns Hopkins, a slaveowner
  • Ben Okri, Birds of Heaven, “Nations and peoples are largely the stories they feed themselves.”

Aarthi Vadde is Associate Professor of English at Duke University. Email: aarthi.vadde@duke.edu. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: plotz@brandeis.edu.

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Aarthi Vadde and John Plotz

Aarthi Vadde is Associate Professor of English at Duke University. Email: aarthi.vadde@duke.edu. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: plotz@brandeis.edu.


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