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Ben Bateman and Shola von Reinhold

Mar 31, 2022

The Romance of Recovery

Ben Bateman talks to Shola von Reinhold

New Books Network 2022

Shola von Reinhold is the author of LOTE, a novel about getting lost in the archives and finding what the archives have lost. LOTE won the 2021 James Tait Black prize so who better to join Shola on Novel Dialogue than Ben Bateman of Edinburgh University, lead judge of the prize committee? This conversation takes listeners back to all yesterday’s parties as Shola, Ben, and Aarthi time travel to the Harlem Renaissance and the interwar modernist era. Shola offers up Richard Bruce Nugent as their current figure of fascination (or “transfixion” to use a key image from LOTE), and wonders what it would have been like to move through Harlem and London by Nugent’s side.

Recovering the stories of black writers and artists is essential to Shola’s literary project. It is also inseparable from restoring queerness to the once hyper-masculine and “muscular” paradigm of modernism. In a stirring discussion of the aesthetic forms and moods of historical recovery, Ben and Shola sink into the “purpleness” of the fin-de-siècle and explore the critical power of black sensuousness. Talk of decadence, ornamentality, and frivolity shapes the latter half of this episode, and Doris Payne, the West Virginian jewel thief, emerges as an exquisitely improbable modernist heroine!

Mentioned in this episode:

-Richard Bruce Nugent
-Dorothy Heyward and DuBose Heyward, Porgy
-E.M. Forster
-David Levering Lewis, When Harlem was in Vogue
-Saidiya Hartman
-Benjamin Kahan, The Book of Minor Perverts
-James Joyce, Ulysses
-Willa Cather, “Paul’s Case”
-Ornamentality via Kant, Hegel, and Adolf Loos
-Susan Sontag
-Doris Payne – a.k.a “Diamond Doris”
-Édouard Glissant

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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