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If you don't yet know historian, literary theorist, and interdisciplinary intellectual, Stephen Kern, I'm so excited to introduce you to him.
Stephen teaches at Ohio State University, and his books, including The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918 , A Cultural History of Causality: Science, Murder Novels, and Systems of Thought and The Culture of Love: Victorians to Moderns, are wide-ranging explorations of history, especially in how it relates to concepts of time and space.
In this episode, we talk about psychology and phenomenology of time, how love has become more authentic and changed the experience of time, the vulgarity and beauty of Joyce and Ulysses, what Christianity has made available and closed off when it comes to intimacy, the struggles of the Victorian era, just how real the concepts of "modernist" and "romantic" and "Victorian" periods are, how pain and time are interconnected, why a reevaluation of time and space needs to be part of labor activism, and more!
I was alarmed to find that there weren't many podcasts or interviews with Stephen available online (although he is known and respected in literary and historian and other academic communities) so I was determined to bring his work to a broader audience.
• Stephen is the author of quite a few amazing books. The best known of his works is The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918 , but the first one I read (and the one that is still my favorite) is A Cultural History of Causality: Science, Murder Novels, and Systems of Thought . I would venture to say Stephen's very favorite is The Culture of Love: Victorians to Moderns, which I also, well, love.
• Here's a brief bio of the phenomenological psychiatrist Stephen mentions at the outset, Eugene Minkowski.
• The dinosaur problem I bring up is best expressed by Owen Barfield, a literary theorist who was friends with Tolkein and Lewis and deeply influenced by Rudolf Steiner. Read his book Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry . Barfield also goes into it with language and poetry in his beautiful books, History In English Words and Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning. If you have more time to go into a complex and denser version of the same sort of thing, check out Jean Gebser's excellent The Ever-Present Origin.
• I highly recommend James Joyce's letters with his beloved Nora Barnacle. Here's a, um, taste:
“My sweet little whorish Nora I did as you told me, you dirty little girl, and pulled myself off twice when I read your letter. I am delighted to see that you do like being fucked arseways. Yes, now I can remember that night when I fucked you for so long backwards. It was the dirtiest fucking I ever gave you, darling. My prick was stuck in you for hours, fucking in and out under your upturned rump. I felt your fat sweaty buttocks under my belly and saw your flushed face and mad eyes. At every fuck I gave you your shameless tongue came bursting out through your lips and if a gave you a bigger stronger fuck than usual, fat dirty farts came spluttering out of your backside. You had an arse full of farts that night, darling, and I fucked them out of you, big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole. It is wonderful to fuck a farting woman when every fuck drives one out of her. I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have. It is sudden and dry and dirty like what a bold girl would let off in fun in a school dormitory at night. I hope Nora will let off no end of her farts in my face so that I may know their smell also.
You say when I go back you will suck me off and you want me to lick your cunt, you little depraved blackguard. I hope you will surprise me some time when I am asleep dressed, steal over to me with a whore’s glow in your slumberous eyes, gently undo button after button in the fly of my trousers and gently take out your lover’s fat mickey, lap it up in your moist mouth and suck away at it till it gets fatter and stiffer and comes off in your mouth. Sometimes too I shall surprise you asleep, lift up your skirts and open your drawers gently, then lie down gently by you and begin to lick lazily round your bush. You will begin to stir uneasily then I will lick the lips of my darling’s cunt. You will begin to groan and grunt and sigh and fart with lust in your sleep. Then I will lick up faster and faster like a ravenous dog until your cunt is a mass of slime and your body wriggling wildly.
Goodnight, my little farting Nora, my dirty little fuckbird! There is one lovely word, darling, you have underlined to make me pull myself off better. Write me more about that and yourself, sweetly, dirtier, dirtier.”
Well, okay then!
• Here's that great photo of Stephen I mentioned (on the back of his book, Anatomy & Destiny: A Cultural History of the Human Body, which is, despite his protestations, not a bad book.)
• The best book on where and when masturbation shame comes from is Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation by Thomas Laqueur (a dream guest for my show, btw). I've also written a little bit about this period in reference to internet freedoms.
• Here's a great little history lesson on Kellogg and Graham and their moral crusades.
• You may be saying, oh, hey, Conner, Versalius showed that Galen was incomplete, if not compeltely wrong, in the 16th Century, not the much later date you said. And you'd be right! Sorry.
• Marie Stopes is an extraordinary woman who taught birth control and sexual health to women in the early 20th century, and there is now a women's reproductive and sexual health organization named for her. Here's a good long article on Stopes and her era. Below is a photo of one of Stopes's birth control clinics, with an amazing nun standing outside:
• If you'd like to read about (and excerpts from) Aristotle's Masterpiece, I think it's a good use of your time. It is...interesting.
• Norman Davidson's quote is
"If you want to have any idea about the connection between astronomy, that is, the heavenly body themselves, and astrology, that is the influences on the human being, then you must understand that, in reality, the earth is still and flat, and the sun and the heavens circle the earth…”
• Here's another video interview with Stephen (the only one I could find!) in which he talks about time and space.
• Michel Serres is one of my very favorite philosophers. His work has been influential on me, and I think we would all do well to read and appreciate him. His most accessible book is Thumbelina: The Culture and Technology of Millennials
Until next time!