Half in jest, after coming upon the This Week in Virology podcast (to which I am now listening; who can you trust better about H1N1, than virologists at Columbia?), I suggested a "This Week in Literary Studies" podcast on twitter this morning. (Twitter's 140 characters has the effect of sometimes precipitating insufficiently hedged enthusiasm; my own over-enthusiastic "Let's grab a domain and get started" is perhaps one such instance.) The idea was hardly inspired--with so many weekly podcasts (the titles of many of which begin "This Week in...", with apologies to Leo Laporte). But it is worth thinking about for a moment. What would the ideal version of such a podcast look like? Here are a few things that, to my mind, it would ideally be (and not be):
  • A podcast focused on literary studies, not digital humanities. The excellent Digital Campus podcast covers broad digital humanities issues quite well.
  • A short podcast, 30 - 60 minutes-ish; not just mp3 recordings of lectures or conference talks.
  • Perhaps combining interviews and conversations: interviews with scholars about their research, areas of interest, recent publications; (ideally) conversations between figures within a field (again, not hour long talks).
  • Aimed at the audience of literature scholars (just higher ed?); but would such folks listen to a podcast? And, for that matter, would such folks be willing to participate?
  • Many podcasts feature a news segment of some kind. (As they say on The Linux Action Show, "What's new in the news this week?"). Because news doesn't really occur at a weekly pace in "literary studies," this doesn't seem like a very useful structure. For that matter, as a structure & genre, a podcast is often closely tied to temporality; even if irregular in appearance--a podcast is a genre proud of being "up to date"; but really, even if we called this a "podcast," it would be a sort of RSS-ified archive of lit. studies mp3 discussions & material.
  • Because of the above, having "guests" would be key--indeed, a sort of sine qua non; without a "news wrap up" to structure a conversation, bringing in and interviewing new folks every [week|month|period] would be vital.
  • One could imagine a themed structure--where every week features a unifying "theme." Imagine how good a podcast on "Intellectual Property" (yeah, I know, IP is halfway to DH; but bear with me) from the perspective of literary history could be. There are a number of literature scholars working in this area (notably, in modernist studies, Paul Saint-Amour's whose The Copywrights: Intellectual Property and the Literary Imagination has justly earned much praise). One could cover a broad historical scope--from the origins of copyright through to contemporary debates about remix culture and so on, in 3 or four interview segments. What other themes could one imagine? The state of "Theory"? "Close reading" as a practice? (A lit studies podcast is feeling more and more like a mini-conference; is that the right model?)
Some logistics issues:
  • Such a podcast wouldn't need to be based in a single place, or done entirely by a single person (though for practical reasons there would need to be a few folks responsible for keeping everything organized). Could it be organized like George Williams's Teaching Carnival, with different folks taking up the mantle? (Technological requirements for recording an interview might militate against this less sort of distributed organization).
  • As with many other podcasts, Skype could allow interviews/discussions with people across geographical distances. Though I've never done this, and am very very frightened about how unpleasant this could be.
Thoughts anyone?