Podcasts (or other audio) where experts go deep on worthwhile media?
August 23, 2023 4:00 AM   Subscribe

What is says on the tin, more details within

So, I asked this question about Moby Dick a few weeks ago and got a bunch of great answers. Fwiw, besides reading Moby Dick (and I did read it in it's entirely before engaging with any analysis!) I ended up reading In The Heart of the Sea, Away Off Shore, listened to the Hubert Dreyfus lectures as well as the Critical Reading podcast episodes...it was a lot of fun! (I plan on rereading it once I've digested the experience of reading it with a lot of this analysis/context on top) In fact it is the Critical Readings podcast that is leading me to ask this question...

It's a fun little podcast, but it's leaving wanting a bit more. I just read Paradise Lost and am going through their discussions, which are interesting...but I'm wondering if there isn't anyone who goes about this in a bit more of a scholarly and systematic way? A podcast seems most likely, but I imagine there may be books on audio, youtube lectures, whatever. I don't want this to sound like I'm hating on Critical Readings! I'm definitely not, they're fun to listen to, but in the Paradise Lost recordings they even admit..."we probably should be going through the criticism on this, digging into some of these questions to try and understanding so and so, but we don't have the time." Which I understand, but...I want to find the people who do take the time to do that, though ideally for an audience of non-experts (eg not for a bunch of other PhDs who all have shared context). A tall ask, perhaps!!!

I care more about the quality of the analysis, or how well it is done, than what is actually being discussed (though I think it'd be fun to continue to tackle the western cannon, eg Moby Dick, Paradise Lost...I'd love to find something like this on Dante's Inferno, for example...but this is flexible!)

I feel like this sort of thing has to exist, so I thought I'd ask!
posted by wooh to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
How long a show do you want?

There are episodes of "In Our Time" on many subjects, with three real experts, but they are only an hour each.
posted by wenestvedt at 4:12 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: "ideal" would be 5-20 hours on a particular work, I think. So pretty thorough, I guess, though proportionate to the size of the work under discussion.

That said, recommendations of shorter discussions that cover a lot of topics well is welcome, as it can certainly complement more thorough analysis!
posted by wooh at 4:21 AM on August 23

Response by poster: I should also clarify that particularly good books analyzing other works are also in scope, I guess I
didn't emphasize that because I imagine they generally don't have audiobook versions...but if they do, I'm happy to buy stuff like that, if there are particularly good ones!
posted by wooh at 4:44 AM on August 23

You might like Shelved By Genre, where three very smart people (two academics and a former academic/critic/author) are doing a close reading of Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun.

If your definition of "worthwhile media" is a little more expansive, the same group also has Just King Things, a podcast where they're reading through the entirety of Stephen King's published novels.
posted by firechicago at 5:23 AM on August 23

Not sure if Close Reads meets your standards, but they go pretty long in their discussions.
posted by Rykey at 5:28 AM on August 23

Maybe too obvious but The Great Courses has a Western Literature series. Some good background for Dante and Milton is found in The Western Literary Canon in Context.
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 5:38 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]

If you consider popular music to be worthwhile media, A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs is sort of the epitome of going deep in that the analyses are many times longer than the works themselves (early episodes were 20-40 minutes but recent ones are routinely 2+ hours). It’s a bit intimidating as a series but you can just cherry-pick episodes for songs or artists that interest you.
posted by staggernation at 5:56 AM on August 23

If you consider science, history, and engineering to be worthwhile, Lex Fridman’s podcast is excellent. It can be a bit intimidating as a series but you can just cherry-pick episodes that interest you. Many episodes are 2,4, even 8 hours. You might check out his shorts to get a taste of his pace and style. He’s really great at drawing out experts to explain concepts in a manner understandable to non-experts.
posted by at at 9:35 AM on August 23

You want edX. I looked for "edX paradise lost" and they have a 4 week course on the subject from Dartmouth. It's archived, which I believe means you can't earn the certificate for it anymore, but the materials (including the lectures) are still online.

Searching for "online course" with a book title will often turn something up, whether it's Great Courses or an EdX course. Personally the structure of a course syllabus seems like a good way to approach this kind of question.
posted by gideonfrog at 9:41 AM on August 23

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