Matt Seybold joins Rob Hawkes and Scott Ferguson to discuss the political economy of literary criticism from past to present, amateur to professional. Seybold is Associate Professor of American Literature at Elmira College and Resident Scholar at the Center for Mark Twain Studies. In addition to writing and teaching in the field of literature & economics, Seybold produces and hosts The American Vandal podcast, an ever-growing collection of conversations and presentations about literature, humor, and history in America that is inspired by Mark Twain’s life and legacy.
Our conservation focuses, in particular, on The American Vandal’s magisterial eighth series titled, “Criticism LTD.” With 16 episodes totaling 24-hours of listening, “Criticism LTD” marshals a diverse cast of over 50 voices to provide fresh perspectives on the origins & trajectories of literary criticism and the so-called “crisis of humanities.” Episodes take on a wide range of topics, including: the marked contrast between today’s “golden age of criticism” (Ryan Ruby) in amateur and para-academic venues and the “Ponzi Austerity” (Yanis Varoufakis) and “Ed-Tech Griftopia” (Seybold) undermining contemporary academic research and instruction; the mid-20th-century trouncing of the neo-Aristotelian Chicago School Critics by the neoliberal Chicago School Economists; how the ugly politics of race, class, gender, and colonialism have both informed and met resist in practices of close reading; and the importance of the 19th-century feud over literary criticism between Matthew Arnold and Mark Twain for imaginatively contesting imperialism, then and now. “Criticism LTD” has much to offer teachers, researchers, organizers, and creators interested in building a more humane, collaborative, and democratic education system in the shell of the old.
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Music by Nahneen Kula: www.nahneenkula.com
The following was transcribed by Mike Lewis and has been lightly edited for clarity.
Scott Ferguson: Matt Seybold, welcome to Money on the Left.
Matt Seybold: It’s very good to be here. Thank you for having me.
Scott Ferguson: We’ve invited you onto the show this month, because we were extremely impressed and very grateful for your work on the American Vandal podcast. In particular, this season of the American Vandal podcast, which you’re calling “Criticism LTD”. This episode is largely dedicated to an exploration of this season, and we’ll get into why it’s so interesting and why it’s worthy of our discussion. But just to start us off, perhaps you can introduce yourself to our listeners by talking a little bit about your background, your training, your interests, and maybe some of your academic and pedagogical work in literary humanities on the one hand, and economics on the other?
Matt Seybold: My official title or titles is I am an Associate Professor of American Literature in Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College. Elmira College is home of the Center for Mark Twain Studies. So my primary service role at the college is as the resident scholar at the Center for Mark Twain studies, where American Vandal is the Center from Mark Twain Studies’ podcast. We have a website, we have a host of both online and in person programming. We welcome about a dozen visiting fellows every year or so. I participate in all of that in various ways. So a big part of my job revolves around the Center for Mark Twain Studies. I came to Twain Studies, however. I was trained in 19th century American literature, that was my primary specialization as a graduate student at University of California, Irvine. But my methodological specialization that I was developing while I was there, sometimes called literature and economics, sometimes called critical finance studies, cultural economy, economic humanities, back in the day called new economic criticism. I was there during the 2008 crisis, and definitely part of a community of scholars who I think were really formed in literary studies by that event. Along with one of my classmates at UCI, Michelle Chihara, we edited the first major companion to that subfield, the Routledge Companion to Literature and Economics. That interest in the history of political economy and the political economy of mass media has informed all of my scholarship, although not always in obvious ways. It’s really what brought me into Twain Studies as well. I see Twain primarily as a political economist and a media theorist, as well as, of course, a novelist and humorist. What excited me about him was how invested he was how informed he was about this period that’s really important to the history of economic thought, the neoclassical period and then the Gilded Age globalization that’s happening concurrent with that. That’s how I got to Twain Studies, and then once I was at the Center for Mark Twain Studies, I always am trying to come back to how media and specifically literature intersects with finance and economics.
Scott Ferguson: That is great. In some of your writing, you’ve shown the ways that literary culture and economic thought are actually indistinguishable, they’re mutually intertwined. And then they become disentangled with a certain organization of the academy and a certain professionalization of these disciplines. But maybe you can talk to us a little bit about those analyses that you’ve offered.
Matt Seybold: I think that idea of disentanglement is, I believe, always arbitrary and superficial and it’s something that I’m trying to resist in the kind of histories of economic thought that I have tried to offer. Absolutely. One of the reasons why I call myself a Keynesian even though most of the people who are identified as Keynesians are people who I would disagree with about most things. The reason I call myself a Keynesian is because what I see happening in John Maynard Keynes’ work that I haven’t found elsewhere in economics thought is an acknowledgment, as Gertrude Stein says, that words are money and money are words. What Keynes recognizes is that once you have organized finance, ideas are a currency that is, in some ways, indistinguishable from other currencies, or at least is in constant exchange with other currencies, which means that literature and other forms of cultural production, particularly when it has a mass audience, can be as important as our immediate material conditions. It isn’t always the case, but it is at times the case. That means that cultural products are as influential on economic behavior as any kind of rational optimization, any kind of training, any kind of awareness of models or accounting, etc. For the vast majority of us, our economic behavior is driven by the cultural products we consume.
Scott Ferguson: Absolutely. And to your point, it’s a false disentanglement. Right. It’s a performance, and contradictions abound. I was starting to think of some. Recently, I realized that Cass Sunstein, The Nudge guy, wrote a whole book called The World According to Star Wars, for example. I know that from work that’s done by my friend and colleague, Todd Barnes, that in finance, Shakespeare is everywhere. All kinds of popular finance books will reference Shakespeare left and right. So the idea that literature and economics and finance are somehow divided is ridiculous.
Matt Seybold: I’m rewatching, or actually watching the final season for the first time, but I’m planning to rewatch more of it, because I’m planning to do a podcast with Anna Kornbluh about this show that we both love called Billions on Showtime. It is filled with exactly that. Now how much of this is coming out of the imagination of Koppelman and Levien, the show runners, but the way they present it, the floors of private equity and venture capital firms are just filled with people who have these elaborate encyclopedic memories for especially film, but also continental philosophy and Victorian literature and so on and so forth. Although they probably take it to a kind of extreme, I think a lot of that is true, right? That even those people who characterize themselves as number crunchers are oftentimes deeply influenced by some sort of corpus, some sort of canon of culture.
Rob Hawkes: I’m a big Billions fan. So I’m looking forward to that conversation. That sounds great. This may be super obvious to everyone listening, but it might be worth underlining just in case that Keynes was an important member of the Bloomsbury group, which was most famous for being a group of primarily modernist writers and artists.
Matt Seybold: A lot of where I got interested in modernism, which I know for both of you is more of the specialization that you came out of, and as a 19th century Americanist I had only a fringe introduction to modernism as a graduate study. But I started working on Eliot, specifically because he was friends with and oftentimes somewhat of a critic of Keynes and their relationship, and the way that it influenced both of them. Elliott definitely regarded Keynes as a cultural critic, and Keynes regarded Elliot as an economic thinker. That relationship was really important for me to justify what I was seeing in Keynes, I was not alone. Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, they all were very interested in what Keynes was doing, even though he was doing it out of the Cambridge Economics Department, which they saw very little other interest in.
Rob Hawkes: My interest in modernism, I think it’s so interesting to think about that period as a time of literary experimentation, but also a kind of experimental-ism in economic thought, and that’s kind of what Keynes was doing. But also to think of money and economics itself as a kind of experimental discipline. We’re not often taught to think of it that way, but it is.
Matt Seybold: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I sometimes question how much of this is intentional, and how much of it is just a matter of economics’ habituated ignorance to its own history, but there has been, I think, a suppression of Keynes in economic departments, certainly. Even in the relatively rare heterodox economics departments, I feel as though they have a somewhat cautious relationship with Keynes because of the neoclassical synthesis. He’s reduced, oftentimes, to that synthesis as opposed to read as an original thinker unto himself. You guys can see it, the listeners won’t be able to, I have this 32 Volume collected Keynes on the shelf behind me. It took me years to assemble that, because it’s not available. It’s still in production. Keynes has been reduced, essentially, to the General Theory, which is certainly wonderful. There’s lots of things in it that are well worth considering, but his thought really is growing over the entire course of his career and in some ways, the work that follows from the General Theory, particularly his critiques of quantitative economics, critiques of Tinbergen, are as important to me as the General Theory. His characterization of the interwar period in The Economic Consequences of the Peace, in particular. I mean, that has influenced the way that I see the world just as much as the General Theory has.
Scott Ferguson: It’s hauntingly prescient.
Matt Seybold: Yes, absolutely. And so readable, so accessible. If you are somebody who feels a little bit intimidated by economic thought, start with Economic Consequences of the Peace, it reads like a work of modernist literature.
Scott Ferguson: Indulge me on this, because you two are the literary scholars, I’m the film and visual scholar. When I’ve studied that text, I’ve always been struck by the character descriptions, the mannerisms, and the ways that heads of state hold themselves, and how President Wilson is regarded and disregarded by the European powers. It reads like a novel.
Matt Seybold: Yeah. Another member of the Bloomsbury group, his name is escaping me at the moment, maybe Rob can help me out. But we have this moment of biography changing by virtue of Bloomsbury, as well. Where the satirical biography is becoming, and the treatment of political figures not as necessarily icons and idols, but also as characters and flawed, tragic characters. I think Keynes is learning from that, in that book and moving forward, as well. Some of his obituaries for economists, and for politicians; Alfred Marshall was really his mentor. But his obituary for Marshall is rich with irony, as well as admiration.
Scott Ferguson: Let’s pivot to your podcast. I think we should probably start by letting you set up where the podcast came from as such. And then we can work our way toward this particular season which we’ve asked you to come on the show and talk to us about.
Matt Seybold: So I think this is a relatively common narrative. But in 2020, I started the podcast. I had done one episode of a podcast for what is called America in the 19 Century. It’s an anthology podcast that is crowd sourced through the C 19. The Society for 19th Century Americanists. It’s a great show, I highly recommend it. I just listened to an episode the other day that was just wonderful, tracing the history of a ballad that was brought to America by an enslaved person. Just an amazing show that’s always finding ways to tell stories about 19th century American History and Culture, that don’t get told in academic journals, and through the other primary mediums that we have available to us as scholars. So I did an episode for that, on Mark Twain and Elmira. It was a great experience that came out in December 2019. It took me months to prepare it. I took a step back from that, and was talking with the director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies. We had been talking for a while about the possibility of doing a podcast. We just decided it’s too much work. It’s too much time, too much labor, we just can’t take that on at the moment. So we put it aside, and then the pandemic came. A big part of what we do at the Center involves in person programming: we have an annual symposium, we have three lecture series in the fall, the summer and the spring, we depend upon that as a justification for our funding. So we couldn’t do any of it for the entirety of 2020 and portions of 2021. So that became a rationale for trying to shift some of that programming into some sort of digital space. The podcast was born of that. For the first year, it was really just throwing stuff against the wall. So I thought up topics, coming up with people I wanted to converse with, trying to find sometimes a connection to Twain, sometimes only a very loose connection to Twain. Over time, I realized that what I really wanted to do was do thematically-linked episodes, not necessarily narrative. Episodes that would develop some sort of ongoing conversation, that would allow me to bring together scholars who were doing work that was related to each other’s work, and to have listeners exposed to a range of topics that they could draw the connections between. So basically the third through the seventh seasons are all of that type. Then, with this most recent season, “Criticism LTD”, I wanted to introduce some kind of narrative element where the conversations would not be self-contained to the episode, but they would be woven together. And I would be trying to draw connections between them and sort of gently guide the audience towards a set of questions, if not necessarily a particular argument or theory, although there’s a little bit of that going on, obviously, as well. I have referred to this as a kind of stereograph on the model of the monograph, something that there’s a set of interrelated chapters that deep dive into some specific topics. But in this case involving a lot of voices, dozens of voices, not just my own.
I think it ended up being close to 50 voices. Now, the number of people I did interviews specific to the series is closer to 30 or 35. But then I ended up incorporating a lot of found audio, either stuff from earlier podcasts that I had done or I wanted to use the audio that I found from some of the Chicago school guys.
Scott Ferguson: You had the AI stuff. Oh my god.
Matt Seybold: Yeah. So it ends up being close to 50 voices that appear at some point or another. Yeah.
Rob Hawkes: So, yeah, so we’ll give you two minutes to summarize.
Matt Seybold: The only way I’ve been able to think about it is just the sort of personal narrative approach, which I know is something that I sometimes critique within American Vandal. But very much this came about organically from just the experience of both thinking about what Twain’s vision of the critic was, and simultaneously witnessing the reception, particularly of John Guillory’s book, and the kind of glory that mainstream media was taking in defiling the profession of criticism in the early part of 2023. Then also recognizing that there was a whole host of other texts that were in conversation, to some extent, with Guillory, that Guillory was self consciously in conversation with at times. Obviously, there was that wonderful chronicle back and forth between him and Bruce Robbins, for instance. It felt to me like there was something really fascinating happening, but that the mainstream media perception of it was very shallow and very, very limited. I really wanted to have a bunch of conversations with people about how they were experiencing this moment, a moment that was really, what we talked about in “Criticism LTD” is twin crises or the possibility, the potential, of twin crises. One, very much a material crisis within the university, and particularly within the humanities, and the difficulty of reproducing our profession, due to what I call Ponzi austerity. Then, the other potential crisis of our methods. What is the purpose of literary criticism? What is its object? Why is there a series of what we have called method wars, cannon wars, etc. Why is there this sense of the metaphor of conflict defining literary studies, whether rightly or wrongly? That was where it all began. The other important piece here, and I think there’s a lot of other things, as you said, going on in this series, but the other really important piece for me was the impression I had that literary criticism was being defined almost exclusively by academic print texts, that is peer reviewed journals and University Press books. Not that those things aren’t enormously important. They are. But I felt as though my understanding of literary criticism at this particular moment is equally defined by what is often called para-academic criticism that exists in digital spaces and in multimedia spaces. I really wanted to think about how our understanding of what literary criticism is changed when we think about what’s happening at Public Books, LA Review of Books, all of those digital hubs, some of which are very large and very influential, like the ones I just named, but also ones that are really niche. I founded one at the Center for Mark Twain Studies that is very specific to Twain studies. We talked to Ainehi Edoro about her work on “Brittle Paper”, which revolves around African literature. There’s all these things that are happening in digital spaces, and then also podcasts and video essays and YouTube channels, etc. That just wasn’t being captured by conversations around Guillory’s book. That was maybe, perhaps a somewhat self interested mission was to think about, okay, how does this change when we start thinking about the breadth of what Ryan Ruby called “the golden age of popular criticism”.
Scott Ferguson: When we were speaking informally before officially beginning, you brought up John Guillory’s book. For I think most listeners, they’re not going to even know who John Guillory is, let alone the fact that he had a book. If they read generally, maybe they might have heard of it, or it might ring a bell, but maybe it’d be worth retelling that, but saying more about this book.
Matt Seybold: I’d had this idea that I wanted to do a more mixed narrative and conversational format. But I didn’t necessarily have a topic in mind for it. I was giving a talk in Washington, DC early in the year. In preparation for that talk, I had been reading a relatively obscure work by Mark Twain about Shakespeare, a work in which he’s also somewhat cynically describing the role of literary critics in his own time. I happened to be preparing for this talk and then giving this talk at exactly the same time that a series of reviews were coming out in The New Yorker, in the nation in New York Review of Books of this same book, Professing Criticism by John Guillory, a book that was getting this kind of mainstream press that very few academic books get anymore. I’m an admirer of John Guillory, I’m an admirer of Cultural Capital. I was reading John Guillory’s book, as well, at the time. I felt as though the way it was being characterized in the reviews was not necessarily inaccurate, but it was definitely selective. There seemed to be a pleasure that legacy media critics took in the suggestion that John Guillory, a renowned endowed chair at NYU, a major voice in literary studies for over three decades, was offering up a kind of mea culpa about how literary criticism doesn’t matter, and has failed in some sort of way. There are elements of that argument in certain sections of Guillory’s book. There are ways in which he would like the profession to self examine and change. But, as he himself says in “Criticism LTD”, he did not intend to write a kind of obituary for the profession, although it was sometimes interpreted that way. Certainly the headlines suggested that. There were things like “The End of Literary Studies”, “The End of The English Major”, “Is Literary Criticism Dead?”, those were the kinds of headlines. I read the book and was simultaneously reading Bruce Robins’ Politics and Criticism. The Andy Hines’ Outside Literary Studies, which is about the history of Black criticism, and its interwovenness with the history of US literary studies. For me, Professing Criticism, John Guillory’s book, fits within this larger dialogue about the state of literary studies and the purpose of literary criticism. A dialogue that I thought really deserved to have more attention and to be developed self-consciously. I really wanted to hear what other people were thinking about this moment. That’s really where the idea was generated. Obviously, it took on some other legs from there, and maybe we can talk about that.
Rob Hawkes: Yeah, absolutely. It really is a wonderful series of these interwoven conversations, as you put it. I think you said already there are around 50 voices there. There are 16 episodes, I think it adds up to something like 24, or just over 24 hours as a whole piece. We could talk for 24 hours and not exhaust all the topics, but I think there are a few things that we’re really interested in. A few threads that maybe we can draw on because and perhaps where the conversation about literary studies most-obviously intersects with the economic, certain economic questions. Then, I suppose one of those is the broader state of higher education and the role of things like Ed Tech, and various industrial disputes going on in US higher education that echoes some of the things we’ve seen in the last year in the UK, as well. I wonder if you could speak a bit to those kinds of themes that run throughout the season?
Matt Seybold: Absolutely. There’s a few ways to approach this. Like you said, I won’t be able to summarize all of the major claims and arguments that are made in relation to finance and technology, and what I have referred to as a kind of extension of the corporate octopus of 19th century America. The mollusk of Ed Tech and private equity. But I think the two main points I would like to make that I think are supported by the conversations in the series. The first is that what’s happening in the humanities is coming for many other disciplines that have been traditionally housed in the university, at least in the United States. And although I have not studied the UK situation, or the European situation, I have been told that there’s a lot of analogies that are not perfect, necessarily, but reasonable. What I’m seeing is that the MacGuffin of growth that has driven private equity and venture capital since the first tech bubble in the late 90s, and early 2000s, seems to have run out of steam. The process of amalgamation and capture that has come for everything from banking to retail to healthcare, has exploited those things, almost draining them of any potential future earnings. That process of capture is now entering into education. It’s starting with American public universities, but will and I think is already moving towards higher education at large and will eventually move into secondary schools, primary schools into sort of every corner of education, if it is allowed to. This is what I have called Ponzi austerity is a method by which public funds are delegated for the purpose, the alleged purpose of education, but are very quickly siphoned into private enterprise. One of the most insidious ways of doing this, and perhaps the most innovative one is through education technology firms and products. That’s something that is accelerating, it explains so many of the crises, including what’s going on at West Virginia University. What’s now happening at SUNY Fredonia. If we look closely, the budget crises are often caused by delegation of resources to private enterprise that does not show any returns in terms of that attraction of students, the better outcomes for students, so on and so forth. Underneath that ideology, at least initially, is the idea that humanities disciplines, in particular languages, literature, history, philosophy can be automated, that they belong to a set of existing corpuses, which might be able to be fully automated and repeated, without any additional labor or input or research from faculty. I think that’s the rhetorical design. I don’t think there’s any merit to it, but it’s a rhetorical design, the goal of which is to de-skill and eventually eliminate labor. Not to reduce the costs of the institution, but to defray those costs to ed tech firms and then vicariously to private equity. That’s one of the key arguments that I introduced early in the series, that develops over the chorus in various ways that one of the things we have to take into account whenever we talk about the crisis of the humanities, is that that crisis might originate from a private equity business model that is sucking the life out of so many industries, and is now coming for education.
Scott Ferguson: This gets at what I take to be one of the most important critical aspects of the whole framework of this podcast and this season, which is that you’re taking up questions of literary criticism in a very expansive sense, on the one hand, and questions of popular media, fine art, our metabolizing of it, our making sense of it, our making sense of ourselves to ourselves, our pedagogy, our institutions of pedagogy, and bringing that into conversation with these kinds of nuts and bolts, changes and contests, in political economy, such that you end up posing the question over and over again, to what extent are conflicts that seem internal to the academy, that might seem esoteric, might seem only the concern of certain kinds of academics and scholars like the so called method wars, which I’d like us to talk about, to what extent our method wars, conditioned by maybe a symptom of larger structures of austerity, privatization and exploitation. I would just love to hear you talk about in your own words, how that kind of conjunction worked for you in constructing this season?
Matt Seybold: Well, I think the short and easy answer to the question is that that’s just how all of my critical approach to anything works is that I have a tendency to see everything to some extent through the lens of how it is being financialized and corporatized. I certainly would readily admit that I might jump to those conclusions, sometimes because I’ve just been habituated to them, and I haven’t been convinced that I’m wrong. I hope that people will listen to the series and recognize that this is not something that I am necessarily laying out at a granular level within the series. I really want this series to be a sort of organic conversation between a whole bunch of scholars, not all of whom will see this the same way that I do. But for me, the question that you asked about the method wars, I unfortunately think that the idea of a post-critique literary studies, a version of literary studies that is founded upon affection for culture, emotional response to culture, and sometimes is associated with a return to canonical appreciation of great books. I see that as very convenient for the mechanisms of private equity, and capture of our institutions. That critique is one of the things that, I would say, capitalists don’t really want our students to learn or be familiar with. They don’t really want it to be done, period. When it comes to my personal understanding of the method wars, and this is not to say that those who are opposed to Jameson who have poked holes in the habit of literary critique are doing so in any sort of cynical way, or are self consciously serving the interests of oligarchy. That’s definitely not my claim. But I do think that their intentions are sometimes misappropriated, misinterpreted, for the purposes of saying a kind of literary studies that aspires to show how the world works, in the same ways that economics tries to show how the world works, or sociology tries to show how the world works. That we should not regard literature professors as having the kinds of qualifications or clarity that gives them the right to make those kinds of claims that some of the social science disciplines and science disciplines do. I think that that is definitely the attitude towards the humanities on Wall Street is that this stuff doesn’t really matter, the people who are coming out of humanities fields who claim to be able to show us something about how the world works, how can they claim that if they’re just reading Dickens, or Twain. I think that sometimes the desire to get away from politics and literature, the desire to get away from critique as a method, certainly the desire to characterize everybody in literary studies as a Marxist, these are all things that serve the idea that we are part of an obsolescent and perhaps a profession that lacks skills that are appropriate for this age.
Rob Hawkes: Yeah. In connection with that, then, I think another important thread of the whole series that I guess begins, in certain respects, with your interest in Twain again, but is a historical dimension and isn’t just about the present moment. One of the parts of the narrative we were especially interested in is the whole story of the Chicago fight which involves a particular kind of version of this story around the University of Chicago but reflects and also resonates in all sorts of interesting ways on the present moment and on this whole relationship between economics and literature, I guess.
Matt Seybold: I wrote, and I don’t think it’s even out yet, but there’s a new edition of the Hopkins Guide to Critical and Cultural Theory that’s coming out. I wrote the chapter on the Chicago School of Economics. So I had done that research a few years ago, and obviously my interest in the Chicago school or awareness of the Chicago School of Economics goes back to my initial training in literature and economics. But I did not realize until I started working on this series, that there was a relationship between the emergence of the Chicago School of Economics in mid-century America and the incredible influence that they have had internationally, in many ways it is the ideological center of neoliberalism, that their origin story involves a feud with literary studies, and specifically with a group called the Chicago Critics. One of the texts that I’m borrowing from, that John Guillory is also borrowing from in his title, is called “Criticism Inc.” by John Crowe Ransom, an early 20th century literary critic. Reading that or rereading that essay, I was drawn to his description of the Chicago Critics, and that is a set of literary studies professors at the University of Chicago, as the first group who were trying to professionalize criticism. That is, make literary studies not just about literary history, and the trivia of literary history, but make it about a force of interpretation that would, I think, inevitably lead it to have some sort of consequence, in terms of a description of how we process information, how we understand the world. Not just literary studies as an archive of great works, and an archive of the people and biographical associations with those works, but actually literary studies as a means of using those works to address greater problems of understanding. Those critics kind of fell out of favor in the middle of the 20th century, and became relatively invisible, I think, in the way that we teach literary studies. And one of the reasons they did is that over the long haul, they lost the fight within their institutions, with the social scientists and with particularly economics. That was completely new to me when I started working on this series, and which I spend three episodes in the middle of the series, which is what I call “the hinge” talking about because I think there are a lot of lessons for us to take away from it and how the institution level, the department level fights sometimes have consequences that extend to the national, professional level, disciplinary level, even sort of global. That’s the story that I tried to tell with the Chicago fight.
Scott Ferguson: Can you tell us a little bit more of some of these juicy details? I don’t want to have you totally repeat because listeners should just go listen. I mean, somehow the Walgreens Corporation is involved in this. I had no idea. And the Mont Pelerin Society, can you just tease us a little more?
Matt Seybold: Yeah, absolutely. There are a few scholars who I should really give thanks to. John Guillory, first. Also, Anna-Dorthea Schneider, who has a wonderful book called Humanities at the Crossroads, that really gives details about what was happening in literary studies at Chicago, less so about the economic side, but because she talks about the relationship of literary studies to the administration, we can start to see the story unfolding through her work in really interesting ways. Then Eddie Nik-Khan, who is a historian of the Chicago School and of neoliberalism. It was really looking at all those pieces together, that I was able to see, what I think, is this really interesting personal squabble, in many cases, between the President of University of Chicago, the humanities faculty, and Dean’s at the University of Chicago, and then the economics department and broader social sciences at University of Chicago. One of the key moments and Eddie is the one who really makes this argument is: Charles Walgreen, the founder of the Walgreens drugstore chain in the United States, becomes involved initially, in a kind of Red Scare moment, where he’s accusing the University of Chicago of promoting communism. A very, very familiar moment, right now. There’s almost no foundation for this claim. It doesn’t resonate with the courts or with the legislature very well. But with the help of his friends in the Chicago press, he’s able to create a kind of moral panic, temporarily. He kind of does a mea culpa a few years later, and donates some money to the university to promote undergraduate education, and particularly founds a lecture series that is going to bring big ideas to campus, specifically for the benefit of introducing undergraduates to a range of perspectives. One of the first Walgreens lectures is even the person that the president of the university who he had been most aggressively feuding with. So there really was a mea culpa to this, but it also brought these funds in. Over the course of the coming decades, those funds actually got transferred to the business school and were eventually the funds that were used to bring major voices in the Chicago School of Economics back to campus, and to build the infrastructure that would make it the powerhouse of that university, and arguably, the kind of academic powerhouse of the United States in the 1970s, 1980s, and beyond. I don’t want to give too many spoilers here, because I can’t tell the story in brief in a way that will quite capture how insidious this design is. A kind of version of people like Milton Friedman, who many listeners will be familiar with, you get a sense of the kinds of institutional operators, the Chicago School economists were, as well as political operators, and international operators today. It’s an achievement of capture that I think becomes a model for so much of what neoliberals do well for the remainder of the 20th and into the 21st century.
Rob Hawkes: One of the moments in that strand, that what did you call it “the pivot” in the series was that the pointing out of the ridiculousness of the idea of a marketplace of ideas version of events where, if these ideas were just good ideas, and if there was a marketplace of ideas where good ideas would just win naturally, then why does all this institutional shenanigans have to happen? It’s because that’s how it is happening. It’s through institutional mechanisms; markets are not the kind of natural phenomenon we were led to believe they are. They’re created that way through institutional mechanisms, just as then the embedding of those ideas within universities.
Matt Seybold: Eddie, again, makes this wonderful point that the ideological foundations of the Chicago School is that we are all at least adequately adept at responding to market signals. Therefore, the creation of those signals through unregulated marketplaces is the best way to create the most efficient and healthiest and smartest, most intelligent designs. Yet, what we see in this story of the Chicago fight is the Chicago economists being disappointed over and over again, that both students and the broader public are not responding to the market signals in the way they think they should. They have to put their foot on the scale over and over and over again. It does very much put the lie to the idea that neoliberalism is about sort of free markets, right? A kind of old cliche that very few people still believe in. We see that that ideology was discarded almost from the get go.
Scott Ferguson: Another thing that I really appreciate about this series is that you do open up so many important questions and tensions and conflicts that are not resolved. One of them being the question of, is there a crisis in the humanities? Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe the way it’s being characterized is misleading. Maybe it’s elsewhere than what the New York Times would like to imagine it is. I’d like to invite you to tell our listeners a little bit about that. Maybe with reference to what one scholar Ryan Ruby has called the “golden age of criticism”, where he’s arguing that because of our expanding media, digital network platforms, we’re seeing a proliferation, a renaissance, of criticism that betrays any any suggestion that there’s some great decline in literature and literary thought?
Matt Seybold: At the center of the series is the idea of crisis, maybe multiple crises, maybe fabricated crises. The one crisis that I think is absolutely real, is the funding of the academic humanities. We’ve already talked about that a little bit, so I won’t belabor the issue. Chris Newfield has spent 30 years and four books tracking this. It is undoubtedly real, and it’s definitely something that we need to have strategies for responding to. I don’t think there’s really anybody in this series that would dispute that piece of it. What they might dispute is: what are the causes of it and how is it related to other questions about method, about object, about medium of publication, about what belongs in literary studies, about how literary studies distinguishes itself from cultural studies, Film and Media Studies. Those are where the disputes, I think, lie within the conversations in “Criticism LTD”? I don’t have an answer to all of those questions by any means. That’s kind of the whole purpose of the series. I don’t want to act as though I am the amanuensis for this large group of very diverse scholars who are involved in “Criticism LTD”. For me, I think one of the crises is the deskilling of and defunding of research. That one of the things that we are told sometimes explicitly, certainly implicitly, but I’m gonna forget his name is Asheesh Kapur Siddique, who has been tracking the ways in which the funding, a lot of the Mellon and other organizations have slowly but surely decreased their funding of humanities scholarship. Almost all of that money is going actually into administration, or it’s going into pedagogy, or into other kinds of program building. The resources available, the time and money available to humanities scholars to do specialized research is dwindling. And that is important. But what it doesn’t mean, and this is where I think things get really confused, and we talk about this at some length in the series, is that there’s not great research and great criticism being created. That in some ways, as Ryan says, this is a golden age of popular criticism, because there are all these multimedia and digital venues for really interesting, critical work. Oftentimes, that critical work relies upon the specialized research that has been done until recently and continues to be done, but just in smaller and smaller portions from within the academy. There’s this tension, where I think there is an absolute crisis in the resources available to academic humanities scholars. This goes beyond the kinds of scholars that you might expect the John Guillory’s and Chris Newfield’s of the world who are working in R1 institutions who have traditionally had lots of access to sabbaticals to research funding, opportunity to go to archives, all that kind of stuff, who are oftentimes teaching a very small course load. That’s one layer of scholars who are being defunded, and that’s really important. But I think what we almost never talk about is the fact that there’s this whole other set of a class or classes who are working at regional universities, at liberal arts colleges, at small private colleges and community colleges, who not only are they not having the opportunity to go write monographs for U. Chicago or SUNY Press or something like that. They’re not having the opportunity to read those monographs, that their work is so de-skilled and defunded. The labor intensification that they are suffering is so intense, that they’re not even able to keep up in their fields of specialization. That, I think, is a major crisis that endangers the reproduction of the discipline. It has the potential to endanger the interests that students have in the courses we teach. Although, I don’t actually see that happening all that much. But I think it has the potential long term to contribute to that. The argument I will always make is that administration’s often forecast the crises that they aim to create, right? What we are being told now is that students don’t have an interest in the humanities because the humanities are not giving them the kinds of knowledge and information and training that is necessary for the job market. Two things. First, the market signals are not telling us that. The people who get humanities degrees do very, very well. There is no indication that is a disadvantage. And also the students really aren’t telling us that. They enroll in humanities courses, they show interest in humanities courses. They don’t necessarily show interest in humanities majors. But my argument is that is because those majors do not have resources. That they are being told they are actually responding in some ways to that market signal and saying that I’m not going to major in a discipline that the university does not provide satisfactory support for.
Scott Ferguson: Is it a market signal? Or is it just an institutional ideological thing?
Matt Seybold: Absolutely. Yeah. And this is this, this is I think, what, whenever I hear an administrator or an Ed beat reporter making some sort of prediction or speculation or conjecture or interpretation, I always see that as an intention, not as an objective assumption about what is actually happening or objective description of what’s happening. There’s absolutely a widespread desire to reduce the number of humanities faculty, and the resources devoted to humanities instruction. The rhetorical moves are designed to rationalize the defunding that’s already happening. That’s sort of my interpretation. I think we’ve gotten far away from the original question. But that, for me, is the crisis that maybe I am most worried about. One of the things that I think the series captures, that is counterintuitive, is that, in part, because the academic publishing arm of the humanities is no longer accessible to many people who would like to be part of it, they are creating criticism outside of it. This is where we get to Ryan Ruby’s thesis. There’s very little, and I’ll even talk about myself, there is almost no incentive within my institution, for me, to publish an academic monograph. I work at a small liberal arts college. The way that our research model is designed, that’s going to give me very little advantage here. So unless I thought it was going to do some other kind of good, it was going to give me some other kind of advantage. There is nothing driving me to spend all of that time and energy, much of which I would have to make room for myself, because it’s not built into my contract. Instead, there’s far more incentive within my current contract for me to make podcasts or to publish in the LA Review of Books or to write journal articles, or even to build out a blog or something like that. Those things are more valued by my institution. That’s one individualized example of a phenomena that comes in many, many different forms across the profession, where people are seeking other venues for publication, for research, for promotion, promoting their own work for professionalization, because the traditional ones, university presses, peer reviewed articles, conferencing, these things are increasingly cut off from them. So what happens is we have this flood of actually really good para-academic criticism, really interesting academic, or pseudo academic podcasts, great material being created all across the web, much of it open access, much of it being created for no pay, which makes it easier to flood the market with it. That gives us maybe the mistaken impression that the infrastructures of the academic humanities are alive and well and healthy, and to some degree, that’s true. But I worry that that “golden age of popular criticism” cannot continue without our re-investment in the specialized research that historians, literary studies researchers, world language professors, etc., have traditionally done.
Scott Ferguson: And that informs pedagogy, and that informs social reproduction. And it’s all interlinked.
Matt Seybold: Absolutely. I think the thing that administrators generally don’t understand at all, and I fear many faculty don’t even understand or have blinded themselves to, is that having a healthy research life is absolutely imperative for being an effective instructor over the long term. Now, over short periods of time, it may not harm you that much if you go a couple of years without keeping up with the field or without having a research project or writing project of your own. Over the short term, you might not feel the immediate harm of that in your classroom, but over the long term, you will. And the longer you go without it, the harder it is to weave it back in. I definitely have seen a variety of examples of that where you have faculty who, for whatever reason, have let go of their professional development in terms of research and writing publication. Maybe they’ve been instructed to do so, to take on more service work. Maybe it’s just out of frustration, burnout, etc. But once it happens, it’s so hard to get it back. It may not harm the students over a short period of time over three to five years. But, professional lives are long, and when we start to get to 10, 12, 15 years of negligence towards research and writing, then the harm in the classroom is very considerable.
Rob Hawkes: That really speaks to something that I really wanted to ask, which I’m going to cite you, I think it’s in the middle of the three part finale, you mentioned that “the convention sometimes taught in graduate programs is that your inclusion in a critical conversation must come at somebody else’s expense. Criticism is competition for scarce resources.” And also a number of times throughout the series, I think Kyla Wazana Tompkins, “The Shush” is cited, and the idea that method wars are really resource wars. In that article, she also said let us imagine a world where our fields and our disciplines are properly resourced. So I wonder if we could ask what your thoughts are, what would higher education, specifically humanities, perhaps even more specifically literary studies, look like if it weren’t starved of resources and if it therefore wasn’t a kind of a battle for a fight over scarce resources? If money were no object, what would the opposite of a Ponzi austerity be? Could we imagine a Criticism Unlimited?
Matt Seybold: That’s a great question. It’s the thing that keeps me up at night perhaps the most. There’s a few things that I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last year that maybe offer some version of an answer to this question. Chris Newfield brings up something like this in our interview in “Criticism LTD” is that one of the things that the humanities lack or that literary studies in particular lacks is a kind of hub for research on the model that the social sciences and particularly economics has. That the Bureau for Economic Research is a sort of extraordinary portal. Setting aside its ideological assumptions, which are numerous and problematic, right. We think of it just as an institution that holds together a whole bunch of diverse fields, types of faculty, etc. It serves an extraordinary purpose. The humanities doesn’t have anything like that. The journals and presses and everything that we publish through, there is no aggregating place for the big ideas that are coming out of academic humanities research. Here’s just what was published yesterday. We could really use something like that just to make it easier, again, for those people who feel like they’re on the fringes, who feel like they’re having trouble keeping up making time for any kind of professionalization, just to be able to say, here’s a place I kind of trust that I feel is going to give me a wide range of relevant resources. And it’s going to make it easy for me to consume them to some degree, even if it’s not in their entirety, I’ll be able to see an abstract, I’ll be able to see a clearinghouse of similar types of publication.
Scott Ferguson: Heterodox economics has their own version, they have something called the Heterodox Economics Newsletter that I subscribe to. And I can catch up on the latest.
Matt Seybold: That’s one thing that I think about the humanities and we can think about this being for some subset of humanities disciplines, or for literary studies, specifically, or history specifically. We haven’t built out that infrastructure, in part because we haven’t found funding for that infrastructure. Because it hasn’t necessarily been treated as advantageous for other industries or private interests. That is definitely one thing that I think we lack, and that we could significantly benefit from. The other thing that came up a few times in this series, which I generally agree with, is that we lack a culture of collaboration and collectivity. Even though we often give lip service to those values, the actual products that we lionize and that we hold up, almost always have a single name on the spine. That’s one of the things I love about podcasting. I think it’s something that we’re seeing maybe develop in the digital humanities, more of a culture of collaboration. But I would like to see it happening across literary studies and across the humanities in maybe an interdisciplinary level. I’m a big fan of Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel The Ministry for the Future. One of the problems that he cites over and over again, is our difficulty conversing across specializations across disciplines. And that’s going to have to happen for us to solve big problems like climate change. I think the humanities have a lot to give to that kind of problem solving, but we have not developed a culture of collaboration, either within or across disciplines. That’s another thing that I think a healthy humanities that isn’t founded on the idea that the best way to claim your spot in the profession is to disagree with somebody else, to make an intervention. That’s something that I would like to see change, not that those interventions aren’t important. It’s just that that maybe shouldn’t be the only way we think about knowledge production.
Rob Hawkes: Collaboration across disciplines is what Money on the Left is all about. So join us.
Matt Seybold: Interdisciplinarity has sometimes a bad name, because it can often be seen as a vehicle for further ostracizing or de-skilling the humanities. That we’re only given some kind of gravitas if we can be associated with medicine or with science or with economics or sociology, right. I think that’s why a lot of humanities faculty are resistant to interdisciplinary projects. But hopefully, there are some which will break down that reasonable reticence.
Scott Ferguson: This leads to another question I wanted to ask you like really nicely about process and about collaboration. I’m wondering, from start to finish, so pre-production, production, phases of production, because it’s clear that one can glean from your release patterns, and from the structures, the kind of montage, collage-like structures of your podcast. That you’ll record a bunch of interviews, and then you’ll cherry pick from them and edit through lines together to create episodes. But then there’s moments when it seems like oh, no, you’re speaking to how you’ve released a bunch of them. And now you’re speaking back to them. So I’d really love to hear about what that process is like, and then just pile it on just because we’re running out of time. I also am really curious about reception and feedback. We were talking before about the emails and the DMS, what do they look like?
Matt Seybold: Well, that’s the easier one to address. It’s the one that I’ve also been thinking about how to process because honestly, while the series was ongoing, I literally could not keep up. There was so much stuff coming into my inbox, I tried to read most of it, at least a little bit, but often I couldn’t respond. I was still doing my day job. I’m still teaching three classes. One of the things I’ve been trying to process since the series ended about three weeks ago, and I’ve actually been able to go back and respond to at least some of those messages and read them in greater depth and start to think about what are the some of the through lines that seem to be consistent, the things that people were most interested in, the things that people are most likely to object to. That’s been something that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. But in doing so, I have also come to the realization that there is something that I had really hoped for, and that is some sort of formal reception. I had really hoped for, whether I had admitted this or not to myself even, that this series, given the clearly the number of people who were listening, and the way in which it was generating conversation within the profession. I would get notes from friends that “I was at a conference, and there were people talking about it,” or “I gave a lecture someplace, and when they mentioned that I’d been on the American Vandal, people responded to that,” right. There clearly was a pretty ranging consumption happening. But the reception I was getting was all informal. All notes, all emails, and DMs, and certainly circulating it on social media and stuff. No review, at least so far, right? No response.
Scott Ferguson: That can take some time.
Matt Seybold: And it can. I’m not saying that it’s impossible for it to happen at this juncture. But I definitely had held out the hope that something like that would manifest. Part of the reason is that it would give some legitimacy to podcasting as an academic medium. That’s one of the things that certainly we talk about within the series. I try to gesture towards various points in the series that I think is a really important medium for academics, not just in the humanities, but throughout. I think that that importance has already manifested in the raw numbers of people who listen to academic podcasts. I’m guessing your data shows the same thing. There are far more people listening to my podcast than there are reading my Mark Twain annual articles, or even probably some of my LA Review of Books pieces. The audience is there. But the mechanisms for translating that into an ongoing conversation, which is really what I want, have not been formalized. So when you ask about reception, that’s the thing that comes up. I’m not the only one doing this. We talked about Remarkable Receptions, which is this amazing podcast series by Howard Ramsey, High Theory. There’s a whole host of academic podcasts which deserve to have that kind of reception and engagement in those formal spaces. So far, at least, it hasn’t really happened. I really hope that that’s something that the profession will adapt to. Going back to the first question, the process, which is a harder one to answer, in part because this is the first time I’ve made this kind of series. There’s definitely some things that will change and alter when I try to do it again. But the goal I set out for myself, when I began, was going to be different from anything I had done before was that I was going to do all the interviews before I released the first episode. I started doing the interviews, I think, in March. I was doing them all through the summer. Then I was going back and relistening to the raw audio to see the things that were connecting between the various interviews. My questions were obviously developing, although I had a set of two or three sort of standard things that I wanted everybody to approach, and then some specific things around people’s specializations and researches. It developed over time. But I really wanted the narrative of the podcast to be developed organically from the conversations. And I didn’t think that could happen until I had done all the conversations. So it’s just I’m gonna do all these interviews, and then I’m gonna see what comes out of them. I think that was a very fruitful process. It was also a process that led me to feel like I was seeing gaps all over the place. So when I made the first five or six episodes, really up to the Chicago fight, I knew a sort of general arc of where the series was going, but I was like, I’d really like to talk more about, for instance, AI. I need to talk to Annie McClanahan and to Ted Underwood. When I knew that I was headed towards Jed Esty’s book being at the center of the finale, I felt like I needed to get more people involved in that conversation. And I hadn’t asked that question, because I didn’t really know where the series was headed, when I first did the interviews. So I did do a kind of second batch later on that then was integrated into essentially the final five episodes, I think. That process will probably look a little different the next time I do it. Also, 16 episodes is a lot. That was not how I imagined it at first. I hope maybe I’ll be able to think a little bit more concisely about topics the next time and maybe have it be a seven or eight episode bundle or something like that. But one thing I will say and this may be a little bit shop talk, but the other thing that’s happening and I address this, to some extent in this series is over the course of preparing “Criticism LTD”, the technology for podcasts was changing rapidly. We get a little bit in the series into the voice generation and the kind of the ways in which you can edit your audio without re-recording stuff, and that’s definitely a boon for podcasters. We talked before we started recording, we talked about transcription and the improvements that are happening to transcription, which improve access and a lot. There’s a lot to be thankful for there and I hope it will continue to get better. But maybe the biggest one for me was the introduction of Descript as a platform for editing and just the ability to edit the audio file through a text editor instead of going into Audible, I think dramatically reduced the amount of time that I had to spend on just the the nitty gritty editing of individual interviews. One of the things that I do with Vandal is I try to really tighten up every interview. In the past that has meant going through every cut by cut, taking out every space, every um, every like, or at least the ones that I decide are not helpful to the conversation. Descript basically does that automatically now, and that happened within the last six months. The first interviews I was editing we’re talking about for every 15 minutes of audio, I’m spending an hour on it or something like that. Now, for every 15 minutes of audio, I’m spending 30 minutes. That’s a big difference. And that’s all been made possible within the last year.
Rob Hawkes: If we have time, we’ve been talking for a while, but this reminds me of something I did really want to ask. It kind of loops back to the question of modernism, to the question of experimentation, experimentalism that almost was where we started, and to something Ryan Ruby said in your conversation, one of the parts of your conversation with him about poetry as inherently experimenting with new media and poets always being at the forefront of new media. I think he also says that criticism is having a kind of modernist moment. With those thoughts in mind that what you’ve just said about the podcast and what you’ve done in terms of podcast as an experimental medium as this project, as this wonderful experimentation with the podcast form, I’ve not heard anything like it. The way that these voices are woven together, and people can come back and refer back to moments. Yeah, it’s a fascinating piece of work as Scott’s already kind of alluded to, from a formal sense. But thinking about the podcast as a kind of experimental form of criticism, and then as criticism as a form of experimentalism as well, which also speaks to some of the threads in the series about the relationship between creative writing and critical writing, and problematizing that distinction, as well.
Matt Seybold: I remember that moment, when Ryan’s talking about writing context collapse, and how writing that poem was part of his transition to self identifying as a critic. The claim that he makes that poets are always on the cutting edge of new media is a powerful one, although I think it is also disproportionately formed by modernist poets. I’m thinking about, like, Evan Kindley’s work here. Modernist poets oftentimes share that kind of dual identity as poet and critic. So we might argue that critics are also part of that Vanguard, who are always reaching for and engaging new media, maybe sometimes more successfully, more progressively than others. For me, the last few years have definitely been kind of slow falling in love with podcasts as a medium. Both ones that I’ve been consuming for a long time, but not really thinking about as anything other than what I put on in the car or what I put on while I’m washing dishes or whatever, right? Not really thinking about them as anything but kind of wallpaper and recognizing as I became a podcaster myself, both the I think inherent tendency for them to be consumed as such, but also also the potential for them to fill spaces that are maybe lacking in our digital ecosystem. The space that I most associate with podcasting is just length. If you know anything about web publication, it’s that our tolerance for long form narrative and argumentation is incredibly low. That even audiences who are attracted to more ambitious and more literary digital publications, don’t really like to read things that are longer than 2000 or 3000 words. That reading on our phones, reading in our browsers, is just something that’s harder to do. And as a result, as criticism has become more digital, as scholarship has become more digital, I think our tolerance for long form argumentation has reduced. And I definitely still find that when I want to read something like a journal article, even though I’m often getting it through the web, I either want to print it out, or I want to put it on my iPad in a way that more resembles reading a book or reading a magazine. I think the technological era that we’re going through, is trending towards not to mention the labor and taste intensification that we talked about earlier, all those sorts of things. It’s trending towards, you know, more editorial, more short form, right. The podcast, I think, is an alternative to that, right? We’re now almost two hours deep in this conversation. I don’t know what it will look like when you publish it, probably an hour and a half or something like that. But people will listen, and then they’ll listen all the way though. They might listen in 10 or 15 minute bursts, they might listen in their car on the way to work, but you have this opportunity to really dig deeper into a conversation and to subject matter to develop a long form that I think is increasingly unavailable to us in other mediums. For me, maybe that’s the biggest attraction of the podcast is that I miss the long read as a dominant, or at least a consistent genre of publication.
Scott Ferguson: Thank you for that. I think by way of conclusion, because I don’t want to take too much of your time, I’d like you to talk a little bit about the soundtrack to your podcast which, hopefully, we will have already incorporated little snippets of into our own interludes, but it plays a kind of constitutive, ongoing aesthetic role. You talk to the musician responsible for the score, as it were. Maybe you can talk about that.
Matt Seybold: Yeah, absolutely. An underappreciated turning point for the series was when Joe Locke gave permission to use his new album released early in 2023 as the soundtrack, and he basically gave me carte blanche to use it however I wanted. As long as I was protecting the copyright. I never played a full song. I always had it coming in, coming out, I had various layers of audio on top of it, things like that to protect his copyright. He gave me that permission, and it really provided this aesthetic tone to the series. I asked him for that album for a reason because I felt like it gave me a kind of palette that I wanted. But as I sort of spent more and more time with the music, I heard the kind of things in it that I hadn’t heard initially. To get back to that conversation about the podcast medium, I think the relationship between voice and music is one that podcasters should try to hold on to. It’s obvious, there are a lot of things that I don’t want us to inherit from our radio predecessors, but that’s one of the ones that I think I do. Certainly talking with Joe, thinking about the backdrop to that album, and the story behind it, and the emotional chorus of those songs was very useful to me and thinking about the arcs that I wanted to create within each episode. Oftentimes, within “Criticism LTD”, the narrative arc is not necessarily an explicit one. It’s not me saying this is what I want, sometimes it is, but it’s not always me saying: this is what I want you to take from this conversation. It’s one that each listener is intuiting for him or herself. But the thing that binds them together is they all get those musical cues. Those musical cues, I think, are really important. I told my dad recently, in every season so far of American Vandal, we have had some kind of theme music that we have orchestrated with the musician. Dan Reader had this wonderful song that he gave us for The World’s Work, we had The Snarling Yarns, a punk band called Squirt Gun for when we were doing our series on social media. So we’ve always had some kind of musical theme. It’s gonna be hard for me to do anything but jazz going forward. Because there was just something about how working with Joe’s album affected my editing and mixing, that I’m gonna be longing for the next time, I think. Yeah.
Scott Ferguson: Thank you so much for joining us on Money on the Left. Oh, did you want to say more? Sorry, you’re kind of delayed because of the Atlantic Ocean. Did you want to add something?
Rob Hawkes: It was just something about jazz experimentation and the kind of call and response, voices in conversation, that I wondered if that had something to do with that.
Matt Seybold: I have been a lifelong jazz listener. I actually played jazz saxophone in an earlier phase of my life. I care a great deal about that music. My dad taught jazz history as an adjunct professor for decades. He was a presenter of a jazz series at Purdue University. He was a jazz disc jockey. It’s been just part of my life ever since I was a little kid. But it wasn’t until I was making this series that I realized, oh, that combination of really deep, technical development, the shedding and practicing that jazz musicians have to do in order to perform, combined with the spontaneity and the improvisation of the performance itself. That’s what I want for Podcasting. I’m not saying that we always get there or that I always get there. But that’s definitely what I want.
Scott Ferguson: Any final questions from across the Atlantic? Well, thank you so much for joining us on Money on the Left.
Matt Seybold: It’s been a real pleasure.
Rob Hawkes: Thanks so much.
* Thanks to the Money on the Left production team: William Saas (audio editor), Mike Lewis (transcription), & Robert Rusch (graphic art)