Martin PuchnerNov 2, 2023
"We are all latecomers": Martin Puchner's "Culture"
A Discussion with Martin Puchner
New Books Network 2023
Recall This Book listeners already know the inimitable Martin Puchner (Professor of English and Theater at Harvard, editor of more than one Norton Anthology, and author of many prizewinning books) from that fabulous RTB episode about his “deep history” of literature and literacy, The Written World. And you know his feelings about Wodehouse from his Books in Dark Times confessions.
Today you get to hear his views on culture as mediation and translation, all the way down. His utterly fascinating new book, Culture: The Story of Us from Cave Art to K Pop (Norton, 2023) argues that mediators, translators and transmitters are not just essential supplements, they are the whole kit and kaboodle—it is borrowing and appropriation all the way down.
Mentioned in the episode:
- Cave art: Chauvet cave "Meaning rather than utility" (cf Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams)
- Recovery of Gilgamesh retold in David Damrosch's The Buried Book)
- David Ferry translation of Gilgamesh
- John Guillory's version of multiple forms of cultural transmission: "Monuments and Documents"
- William Blake, "Drive your cart and plough over the bones of the dead"
- Alex Ross writes eloquently in his book The Rest Is Noise about music's "pulverized modernity"; the revival of ancient culture in a reformulated, fragmented and reassembled from.
- Creolization as distinctively Caribbean (cf Glissant's notion of creolite )
- Orlando Paterson, Slavery and Social Death (cf also Vincent Brown on the syncretism and continuity in Carribean deathways, Reaper's Garden)
- "Revenants of the past" as a way of understanding what scholars do: a phrase from Lorraine Daston's Rules--and was extensively discussed in the RTB conversation with Daston.
- Peter Brown Through the Eye of the Needle on monastic wealth and the rise of "mangerial bishops"--a topic that came up in his conversation with RTB.
- John presses the non-cenobitic tradition of the hermit monk, but Martin insists that most Church tradition shares his preference for the cenobitic or communal monastic tradition --even on Mt Athos.
- Sidney Mintz and Richard Price, The Birth of African-American Culture
- Richard Price, First Time (the dad of Leah Price?)
- Aphra Behn Oroonoko: or, The Royal Slave (1688)
- Roberto Calasso (an Umberto Eco sidekick?) The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony
Read the episode here.