Jeffrey Williams with Janice Radway

Janice Radway
Janice Radway

Since 1993, Jeffrey J. Williams has conducted over 50 interviews with contemporary critics, philosophers and writers. The Conversant is pleased to republish a selection of these interviews. This interview took place on  October 1st, 2005 in Newark, Delaware, in the midst of a conference on reception study. It was conducted and edited by Jeffrey J. Williams and transcribed by Sean McCreery.

While deconstruction theorized difficulties of reading, Janice Radway talked to real readers about what they were doing. Her first book, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature (University of North Carolina Press, 1984; new ed. 1991), is an innovative study of women who read romances and how they use them. Her second book, A Feeling For Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire (University of North Carolina Press, 1997), provides a cultural history of that book club as well as a personal account of literary taste. In 1998, Radway served as president of the American Studies Association (ASA), and her presidential address, “What’s in a Name?” (American Quarterly 51 (1999); reprinted in Pease and Wiegman, The Future of American Studies, 2003), posed an influential challenge to the hubris of the adjective, “American,” when we refer to literature or culture of the United States. More recently, Radway has co-edited volume 4 of A History of the Book in America, Print in Motion: The Expansion of Publishing and Reading in the United States, 1880-1945 (University of North Carolina Press, 2008) and American Studies: An Anthology (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). Related to her current project on girl culture, she has published several essays, for instance “Zines, Half Lives and Afterlives” (PMLA 2011).

Andy Fitch with Aaron Kunin

Aaron Kunin
Aaron Kunin

Along with Cristiana Baik, Andy Fitch is assembling the Letter Machine Editions Book of Interviews, which also includes interviews conducted by Noah Eli Gordon and Joshua Marie Wilkinson. This talk will be published in that collection, due for late 2014 release.

Andy Fitch: Could we start by contextualizing Grace Period amid your broader literary output? Some readers may assume that an author’s notebooks only could supplement his/her “serious” work. Some aphorists, some masters of the portrait or miniature or serial poem, may consider the notebook a genre like any other—with its own literary pedigree, rhetorical conventions, inherited formal or interpretive or theoretical problems. And especially since your first two poetry collections offer a circumscribed idiom, a quasi-conceptual resonance not extractable within any straightforward confessional or lyric utterance, I wonder if you see Grace Period as a real-time complement and/or extension of these poetic projects, as a fellow traveler, as a willed divergence or desecration.

The Conversant on the Psychology in Seattle Podcast

Kirk Honda MA LMFT, Mandy Castaneda and Humberto Castaneda
Kirk Honda, Mandy and Humberto

The Conversant seeks to draws attention to innovative uses of dialogue in a variety of disciplines, among them psychotherapy and broadcasting—as here represented by the Psychology in Seattle podcast.

Please click below to play the audio file
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The Psychology in Seattle podcast has been producing weekly podcasts about psychology and psychotherapy since 2008. Psychology in Seattle has about 10,000 dedicated weekly listeners. The host, Kirk Honda, is a faculty member at Antioch University Seattle, and a licensed therapist. The co-hosts, Mandy and Humberto, provide the layperson’s voice. The podcasts are an entertaining mix of seriousness and silliness. The podcast is available on iTunes and YouTube, as well as the KIRO Radio website.

Jane Joritz-Nakagawa with Pam Brown

Home by Dark
Home by Dark by Pam Brown

This interview, proposed by Jane Joritz-Nakagawa to Pam Brown upon the publication of Brown’s book, Home by Dark, was conducted via email in late 2013.

Jane Joritz-Nakagawa: Shall we start at the beginning? Perhaps you could tell how Home by Dark  began, came about? Can you remember the first impetus or first poems created for it? What set the book in motion?

Jon Curley with Derek Coyle

Derek Coyle
Derek Coyle

This interview series poses one question over and over again to a slew of poets of various aesthetic modes. My intention is two-fold: to encourage these poets to examine and imagine whatever notions and natures they discern in their work, and to trace their thoughts about conceptual alternatives to the patterns and trajectories they perceive there. In thinking otherwise, against usual models or presiding instincts, they are free to delve into various realms of possibilities, creating fresh commentary on their current practice and procedures, and theoretical visions which might guide them ideally, provisionally, even counterintuitively. The prompt in some cases generates follow-up questions which the subject can agree to answer or just ignore, and keep silent (silence, too, is a kind of answer). After all, the free-play prospects my line of questioning wishes to pursue must also consider the poets’ freedom to take it on their terms, not my own.

Jon Curley: Can you envision what kinds of poems, whether structurally or thematically, you might consider writing beyond the realm of your past practice? Are there elements of poems outside your usual patterns and activities you might try to integrate into your work?

Philip Metres with Tatyana Rizdvenko

Tatyana Risdvenko
Tatyana Rizdvenko

This interview series, “Conversations after the Fall: Interviews with Contemporary Russian Poets,” began as part of my Thomas J. Watson Fellowship year (1992-1993). The following interview with the poet Tatyana Rizdvenko took place in 1996.

Tatyana Rizdvenko was born in Moscow in 1969 and graduated from the Moscow Pedagogical Institute. She has published two volumes of poetry and works in advertising. 

Philip Metres: Let’s begin with your poetic life. How long have you written poems?

Nature Theater of Oklahoma with Robert Smith

Robert Smith
Robert Smith

Nature Theater of Oklahoma talks to NPR correspondent Robert Smith about radio, reporting and storytelling. What happens when we put extreme constraints of time on narrative–as in durational theater and art projects (such as Chris Marclay’s The Clock and our current project, Life and Times)–and in public radio, which is typically built in short 3-6 minute story segments? We also examine the ways in which live performance and radio are both shaped, respectively, by the physical presence and absence of their audience.

Jim Goar with Meirion Jordan

Meirion Jordan
Meirion Jordan

This transatlantic interview series, “The Slow Boat,” provides a setting for poets to engage in occasional conversation over the course of two months. It strives to be an invitation to further inquiry into the methods and complexities of a particular composition. The aim is not to be conclusive, but, in tandem, to further explore what it is to make a poem. 

Jim Goar: Although we’ve completed our interview, and this is the final question that I will ask, I think it might be a good place for the reader to begin. For the reader starting out, could you talk about the structure of King Harold and of Regeneration? A brief overview of the history you are working through, I think, will help to open this interview.

Simon Critchley and Philip Seymour Hoffman, with Introduction by Feliz Lucia Molina

(left to right) Philip Seymour Hoffman and Simon Critchley
(left to right) Philip Seymour Hoffman and Simon Critchley

Founded in 1994, the European Graduate School is a program led by philosophers, film makers, writers, poets and artists, located in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. A fun camp of critical theory and continental philosophy, its teachers and students gather from around the world in a secluded Swiss Alp town for three-week-long intensive study and lectures that continue late into the night at Metro Bar, Happy Bar, Popcorn, or wherever else. Fortunately, all of the official lectures are videotaped and archived.