This season, we’re partnering with Novel Dialogue, a podcast where a novelist and a literary critic talk about novels from every angle: how we read them, write them, publish them, and remember them.
In this episode, Benjamin Bateman, professor of English and head judge of the James Tait Black Prize, reunites with Shola von Reinhold, author of LOTE, the winner of the JTB prize in 2021. This conversation takes listeners back to all yesterday’s parties as Shola, Ben, and host Aarthi Vadde 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 hypermasculine and “muscular” paradigm of modernism. In a stirring discussion of the aesthetic forms and moods of recovery, Ben and Shola sink into the “purpleness” of the fin-de-siècle and explore the critical power of Black sensuousness. Concepts of decadence, ornamentality, and frivolity shape the latter half of this episode where Doris Payne, the West Virginian jewel thief, emerges as an exquisitely improbable modernist heroine.
View a transcript of the episode here.
Mentioned in this Episode
- Richard Bruce Nugent
- Porgy, Dorothy Heyward and DuBose Heyward (1927)
- E.M. Forster
- When Harlem was in Vogue, David Levering Lewis (1997)
- Saidiya Hartman
- The Book of Minor Perverts, Benjamin Kahan (2019)
- Ulysses, James Joyce (1922)
- “Paul’s Case,” Willa Cather (1905)