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It would be wrong to describe Arthur Machen's Hieroglyphics: A Note Upon Ecstasy in Literature (1902) as a work of nonfiction, since the book features a narrative frame that is as moody and irreal as the best tales penned by this luminary of weird fiction. But if the eccentric recluse at the centre Hieroglyphics is a fictional philosopher, he is on…
 
In 1996 Argentina adopted genetically modified (GM) soybeans as a central part of its national development strategy. Today, Argentina is the third largest global grower and exporter of GM crops. Its soybeans—which have been modified to tolerate being sprayed with herbicides—now cover half of the country's arable land and represent a third of its to…
 
In Diners, Dudes, and Diets: How Gender and Power Collide in Food Media and Culture (UNC Press, 2020), Emily Contois argues that the figure of The Dude was invented (or perhaps only capitalized on) by marketing and advertising firms to combat “gender contamination” and sell what may be perceived as “feminine” foods to men. Contois suggests that thi…
 
The German polymath E. T. A. Hoffmann is one of the founding figures of what we now call weird literature. In this episode, JF and Phil discuss one of his most memorable tales, "Der Sandmann." Originally published in 1816, it is the story of a young German student whose fate is sealed by a terrifying encounter with the eponymous figure during his y…
 
Bovine politics exposes fault lines within contemporary Indian society, where eating beef is simultaneously a violation of sacred taboos, an expression of marginalized identities, and a route to cosmopolitan sophistication. The recent rise of Hindu nationalism has further polarized traditional views: Dalits, Muslims, and Christians protest threats …
 
Southeast Asia's demand for protein in the form of animal meat is increasing by more than 4% every year. This has important consequences for regional food security and household incomes and wellbeing. Laos and Cambodia are ideally placed in the region to meet the demand. However, current livestock production and health practices pose a constraint a…
 
After water, tea is the most widely consumed drink in the world. It is beloved by consumers in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, and it comes in a bewildering array of varieties: from the cheap sachet of finely ground English black tea to fermented bricks of pu’er from Yunnan province. This beverage also has a fascinating place in the global …
 
Since its release in 1973, Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man has exerted a profound influence on the development of horror cinema, a rich vein of folk music, and the modern pagan revival more generally. Anthony Shaffer's ingenious screenplay gives us a thrilling yarn that is also a meditation on the nature of religious belief and practice. Just in time …
 
This second instalment in our series on the major trumps of the traditional tarot deck features the Empress. As Aleister Crowley writes in The Book of Thoth, this card is probably the most difficult to decipher, since it is inherently "omniform," changing shapes continuously. In a sense, the Empress is variation itself. Her card becomes the occasio…
 
In this this interview, Carrie Tippen talks with Jessica Martell about her new book, Farm to Form: Modernist Literature and Ecologies of Food in the British Empire, published in 2020 by University of Nevada Press for their Cultural Ecologies of Food series. In Farm to Form, Martell contextualizes some familiar texts of British Literary Modernism, i…
 
David Lynch's Lost Highway was released in 1997, five years after Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me elicited a fusillade of boos and hisses at Cannes. The Twin Peaks prequel's poor reception allegedly sent its American auteur spiralling into something of an existential crisis, and Lost Highway has often been interpreted as a response to -- or result of…
 
In China, chiles are everywhere. From dried peppers hanging from eaves to Mao’s boast that revolution would be impossible without chiles, Chinese culture and the chile pepper have been intertwined for centuries. Yet, this was not always the case. In The Chile Pepper in China: A Cultural Biography (Columbia University Press, 2020), Brian Dott explor…
 
The Book of Changes, or I Ching, is more than an ancient text. It's a metaphysical guide, a fun game, and -- to your hosts at least -- a lifelong, steadfast friend. The I Ching has come up more than once on the show, and now is the time for JF and Phil to face it head on, discussing the role it has played in their lives while delving into some of i…
 
The British writer M. John Harrison is responsible for some of the most significant incursions of the Weird into the literary imagination of the last several decades. His 1992 novel The Course of the Heart is a masterful exercise in erasing whatever boundary you care to mention, from the one between reality and mind to the one between love and horr…
 
There is no eating in the archive. This is not only a practical admonition to any would-be researcher but also a methodological challenge, in that there is no eating—or, at least, no food—preserved among the printed records of the early United States. Synthesizing a range of textual artifacts with accounts (both real and imagined) of foods harveste…
 
Your hosts' exploration of mysticism and vision in pop music continues with two powerful pieces of popular music: Radiohead's "Pyramid Song" from the 2001 album Amnesiac, and Fran Landesman and Tommy Wolf's "Ballad of the Sad Young Men," from the 1959 Broadway musical The Nervous Set. Synchronicity rears its head as the dialogue reveals how these t…
 
In this this interview, Carrie Tippen talks Kara Keeling and Scott Pollard about their new book, Table Lands: Food in Children's Literature, published June 2020 by University of Mississippi Press. Table Lands contributes to a growing body of scholarship in the subfield of literary food studies, which combines the methods of literary analysis with t…
 
The nostalgic mist surrounding farms can make it hard to write their history, encrusting them with stereotypical rural virtues and unrealistically separating them from markets, capitalism, and urban influences. The Nature of the Future: Agriculture, Science, and Capitalism in the Antebellum North (University Of Chicago Press) aims to remake this st…
 
In this episode of Weird Studies, an improvised analysis of two pop songs -- Nina Simone's version of James Shelton's "Lilac Wine" and Ghostface Killah's visionary "Underwater" -- becomes the occasion for a deep dive to the weird wellspring of artistic creation. In trying to understand these songs and why they love them so much, your hosts touch on…
 
In this this interview, Carrie Tippen talks with Emily Wallace, author and illustrator of the new book Road Sides: An Illustrated Companion to Dining and Driving in the American South (University of Texas Press, 2019). Road Sides pays homage to popular travel guides with its short chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet containing a brief con…
 
At the time The Mothman Prophecies' was released in 1975, and again when he penned an afterword for the 2001 edition, John Keel appeared to have made up his mind about the "ultraterrestrials" that he had tracked and hunted for most of his adult life. They were unconcerned about the welfare of the people whose lives they threw into disarray, he said…
 
Why do we eat? Is it instinct? Despite the necessity of food, anxieties about what and how to eat are widespread and persistent. In Appetite and Its Discontents: Science, Medicine, and the Urge to Eat, 1750-1950 (University of Chicago Press, 2020), Elizabeth A. Williams explores contemporary worries about eating through the lens of science and medi…
 
Growing up as a fat girl, Virgie Tovar believed that her body was something to be fixed. But after two decades of dieting and constant guilt, she was over it―and gave herself the freedom to trust her own body again. Ever since, she’s been helping others to do the same. Tovar is hungry for a world where bodies are valued equally, food is free from m…
 
By the time Bolivian President Evo Morales was deposed in December 2019, it had become increasingly clear that Latin America’s Pink Tide – the wave of left-leaning, anti-poverty governments which took hold of the region in the mid-2000s – was fast receding. Many have attempted to explain the rise and fall of that extraordinary historical movement, …
 
In Food In Cuba: The Pursuit of a Decent Meal (Stanford University Press, 2020), Hanna Garth examines the processes of acquiring food and preparing meals in the midst of food shortages. Garth draws our attention to the social, cultural, and historical factors Cuban’s draw upon to define an appropriate or decent meal and the struggle they undergo to…
 
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