In the 48th episode of the Podcast for Social Research, BISR faculty (and co-founder) Christine Smallwood joins Abby Kluchin, Rebecca Ariel Porte, Ajay Singh Chaudhary, Michael Stevenson, and Suzanne Schneider for a wide-ranging discussion of her acclaimed debut novel The Life of the Mind. In a two-part conversation, Christine first sits down with Abby to discuss the novel’s characters, themes, and influences (George Eliot, Thomas Mann, Melanie Klein, and, perhaps unconsciously, Antonio Gramsci and Walter Benjamin), before joining Rebecca, Ajay, Michael, and Suzy to ponder what it means, with the academy in crisis, to live a “life of the mind.” Questions considered include: What is depressive realism? How does the central character Dorothy relate to both professional and bodily failure? Why, in a book titled The Life of the Mind, does so much of the writing concern the body? What distinguishes “overthinking” from critique? Can reading and thinking make us better people? And if not, how can we understand the “necessary luxury” of living, at least partly, a life of the mind?
This episode of the Podcast for Social Research was edited by Nechama Winston. If you enjoyed the podcast, please consider supporting our Patreon page.