AGNI magazine: A Discussion with Sven Birkerts


Sven Birkerts is the co-editor of AGNI magazine, an essayist, and a literary critic perhaps best known for his book The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age (FSG, 2006), about the impact of the internet and “electronic culture” in general. He’s taught at Bennington College, Harvard University, and elsewhere.

What is MFA culture, and how has the rise of writing programs in academia changed the course of literature for better and, at times, perhaps for worst? That’s this episode’s first major topic, with Sven Birkerts offering observations about the rise of braided essays (spurred by Wikipedia perhaps), plus tonal and other stylistic marks that have become common. This episode next features three essays, all with a duality to them. Sarah Khatry’s essay, “Afterlives,” has both an objective element to it (she’s a data scientist working on Covid-19 data) and a subjective component, too, as she navigates her grandmother’s death. Mara Naselli’s essay, “My Misogny,” takes on how Pablo Picasso “manhandled” the women who appeared in his paintings, even as Naselli battles with the lessons she’s gathered from interacting with her parents. Peter Balakian’s essay, “A Poetry Reading in Diyarbakir” is seasoned with lush description of the food to be found in eastern Turkey, juxtaposed with the ethnic hatreds that make life so tough in that region. In every case, Birkerts does an admirable job steering listeners through the material at hand.

Dan Hill, PhD, is the author of ten books and leads Sensory Logic, Inc. 

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Dan Hill

Dan Hill, PhD, is the author of ten books and leads Sensory Logic, Inc. To check out his related “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight” blog, visit this site.

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