Weird Studies

Weird Studies

www.weirdstudies.com
A filmmaker and a professor talk art and philosophy at the limits of the thinkable


61: Evil and Ecstasy: On ‘The Silence of the Lambs’
Dec 4 • 66 min
The Welsh writer Arthur Machen defined good and evil as "ecstasies." Each one is a "withdrawal from the common life." On this view, any artistic investigation into the nature of good and evil can't remain safely ensconced our modern, common-life construal…
60: Space is the Place: On Sun Ra, Gnosticism, and the Tarot
Nov 20 • 85 min
Somebody once said, "No prophet is welcome in his own country." Whether this was true in the case of jazz musician and composer Sun Ra depends on whom you ask. With most, the dictum probably bears out. But there are those who can make out certain patterns…
59: Green Mountains Are Always Walking
Nov 6 • 79 min
"Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around a lake." This line from Wallace Stevens' "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction" captures something of the mysteries of walking. It points to the undeniable yet baffling relationship between walking and thinking,…
58: What Do Critics Do?
Oct 23 • 59 min
What is the role of the critic in the world of art? For some, including lots of critics, the figure exudes an aura of authority: her task is to tell us what this or that work of art means, why it matters, and what we are supposed to think and feel in its…
57: Box of God(s): On ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’
Oct 9 • 90 min
Raiders of the Lost Ark is more than a Hollywood movie made in the summer blockbuster mold. As Phil says in his intro to this popping Weird Studies episode, the film is "a Trojan horse of the Weird, easy to let in but once inside, apt to take over." This…
56: On Jean Gebser, with Jeremy D. Johnson
Sep 25 • 78 min
The German poet and philosopher Jean Gebser's major work, The Ever-Present Origin, is a monumental study of the evolution of consciousness from prehistory to posthistory. For Gebser, consciousness adopts different "structures" at different times and in…
55: The Great Weird North: On Algernon Blackwood’s ‘The Wendigo’
Sep 11 • 82 min
No survey of weird literature would be complete without mentioning Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951). As with all masters of the genre, Blackwood's take on the weird is singular: here, it isn't the cold reaches of outer space that elicit in us a nihilistic…
54: Lobsters, Pianos, and Hidden Gods
Aug 28 • 77 min
"All things feel," Pythagoas said. Panpsychism, the belief that consciousnes is a property of all things and not limited to the human brain, is back in vogue — with good reason. The problem of how inert matter could give rise to subjectivity and feeling…
53: Astral Jet Lag: On William Gibson’s ‘Pattern Recognition’
Aug 14 • 62 min
William Gibson's Pattern Recognition was published in 2003, in the wake of 9/11. You would think that a novel about the early Internet's effects on the collective psyche would feel dated today. But Gibson's insight into the deeper implications of digital…
52: On Beauty
Jul 31 • 75 min
The idea that beauty might denote an actual quality of the world, something outside the human frame, is one of the great taboos of modern intellectual thought. Beauty, we are almost universally told, is a cultural contrivance rooted in politics and…
51: Blind Seers: On Flannery O’Connor’s ‘Wise Blood’
Jul 17 • 95 min
Through her fiction, Flannery O'Connor reenvisioned life as a supernatural war wherein each soul becomes the site of a clash of mysterious, almost incomprehensible forces. Her first novel, Wise Blood, tells the story of Hazel Motes, a young preacher with…
50: Demogorgon: On ‘Stranger Things’
Jul 3 • 96 min
The Duffer Brothers' hit series Stranger Things is many things: an exemplary piece of entertainment in the summer blockbuster mold, a fresh take on the "kids on bikes" subgenre of science fiction, a loving pastiche of 1980s Hollywood cinema. And as Phil…
49: Out of Time: Nietzsche on History
Jun 19 • 82 min
In his essay "On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life," Nietzsche attacks the notion that humans are totally determined by the historical forces that shape their physical and mental environment. Where other philosophers like Plato saw virtue in…
48: Walking the Tightrope with Erik Davis
Jun 5 • 84 min
Journalist and historian of religion Erik Davis joins Phil and JF to talk about his latest magnum opus, High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies. In this masterwork of weird scholarship, Davis explores the simultaneously…
47: Machines of Loving Grace: Technology and the Unabomber
May 22 • 67 min
Made in 2003, Lutz Dammbeck's documentary The Net: The Unabomber, LSD, and the Internet is a film about many things, but the gist of it is something like what William Burroughs called the doctrine of control. We live in a world governed by technologies…
46: Thomas Ligotti’s Angel
May 8 • 89 min
In his short story "Mrs. Rinaldi's Angel," contemporary horror author Thomas Ligotti contrasts the chaotic monstrosity of dreams with the cold, indifferent, and no less monstrous purity of angels. It is the story of a boy whose vivid dream life is sapping…
45: Jeffrey J. Kripal on ‘Flipping’ Out of Materialism
Apr 24 • 69 min
"May the present 'you' not survive this little book," Jeffrey Kripal writes in the prologue to The Flip. "May you be flipped in dramatic or quiet ways." Indeed, Kripal's latest is a kind of manifesto, a call to embrace the metaphysical expanses that…
44: Doomed to Enchantment: The Psychical Research of William James
Apr 9 • 93 min
The great American thinker William James knew well that no intellectual pursuit is purely intellectual. His interest in the "supernormal," whether it take the form of spiritual apparition or extrasensory perception, was rooted in a personal desire to…
43: On Shirley Jackson
Mar 27 • 75 min
Shirley Jackson's stories and novels rank among the greatest weird works produced in America during the 20th century. However, unlike authors such as Philip K. Dick and H.P. Lovecraft, Jackson didn't cut her teeth in the pulps but among the slick pages of…
42: On Pauline Oliveros, with Kerry O’Brien
Mar 13 • 63 min
In the mid-1960s, Pauline Oliveros was a composer of experimental electronic music. But at the end of the 1960s, shocked by the political violence around her, she turned away from electronic technology and towards to a different kind of experimentation,…
41: On Speculative Fiction, with Matt Cardin
Feb 27 • 59 min
Neil Gaiman wrote, "If literature is the world, then fantasy and horror are twin cities, divided by a river of black water." Flame Tree Publishing underwrites this claim with their recent publication, The Astounding Illustrated History of Fantasy and…
40: On Jonathan Glazer’s ‘Under the Skin’
Feb 13 • 77 min
In Jonathan Glazer's loose screen adaptation of Michel Faber's novel Under the Skin, a creature of mysterious origin drives around Scotland in a white van, collecting lonely men and spiriting them away to an otherworld where they are turned into food…. or…
39: The Challenge of the Paranormal, with Jeffrey J. Kripal
Jan 30 • 62 min
"The world is not simply composed of physical causes strung together in strictly materialistic and mechanical fashion," writes Prof. Jeffrey J. Kripal in his seminal book, Authors of the Impossible. "The world is also a series of meaningful signs…
38: Style as Analysis
Jan 16 • 70 min
Music writing has always been something of an occult practice, trying by some weird alchemy to use concepts to describe stuff that defies the basic categories of intellect. So long as we stick to classical music, we can pretend that nothing too odd is…
37: Entities, with Stuart Davis
Jan 2 • 74 min
Several years ago, on New Year’s Eve, a tall, purple-robed praying mantis appeared to multidisciplinary artist Stuart Evan Davis as he meditated while running a fever. “Remember who you work for,” the entity said after beaming a zettabyte of information…
Christmas Bonus: Hyperstition Addendum
Dec 25, 2018 • 24 min
Happy holidays, Weird Studies listeners! In this short "Christmas Bonus" episode, your intrepid hosts finish up what began as a discussion of Nick Land's concept of hyperstition. Following last week's closing remarks about the importance of "banishing"…
36: On Hyperstition
Dec 19, 2018 • 73 min
Hyperstition is a key concept in the philosophy of Nick Land. It refers to fictions which, given enough time and libidinal investment, become realities. JF and Phil explore the notion using one of those optometric apparatuses with multiple lenses —…
35: Whirl Without End: On M.C. Richards’ ‘Centering’
Dec 5, 2018 • 61 min
The first step in any pottery project is to center the clay on the potter's wheel. In her landmark essay Centering: In Pottery, Poetry and the Person (1964), the American poet M. C. Richards turns this simple action into a metaphor for all creative acts,…
34: The Weird Realism of Robert Aickman
Nov 21, 2018 • 55 min
Although he is one of the luminaries of the weird tale, Robert Aickman referred to his irreal, macabre short works as strange stories. Born in London in 1914, Aickman wrote less than fifty such stories before his death in 1981. JF and Phil focus on one of…
33: The Fine Art of Changing the Subject: On Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’
Nov 7, 2018 • 59 min
In 1917, Marcel Duchamp trolled the New York art scene with Fountain, the famous urinal, whose significance has since swelled in the minds of art aficionados to become the prototype of all modern art. The conversation as to whether or not Fountain…
32: Orbis Tertius: Borges on Magic, Conspiracy and Idealism
Oct 31, 2018 • 70 min
Jorge Luis Borges's story "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" is a metaphysical detective story, an armchair conspiracy thriller, and a masterpiece of weird fiction. In this tale penned by a true literary magician, Phil and JF see an opportunity to talk about…
31: Scarcely Human at All: On Glenn Gould’s ‘Prospects of Recording’
Oct 24, 2018 • 76 min
Most people know Glenn Gould as a brilliant pianist who forever changed how we receive and interpret the works of Europe's great composers: Bach, Beethoven, Schoenberg… But Gould was also an aesthetic theorist who saw a new horizon for the arts in the age…
30: On Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’
Oct 14, 2018 • 66 min
No dream is ever just a dream. Or so Tom Cruises tells Nicole Kidman at the end of Eyes Wide Shut. In this episode, Phil and JF expound some of the key themes of Kubrick's film, a masterpiece of cinematic chamber music that demonstrates, with painstaking…
29: On Lovecraft
Oct 9, 2018 • 75 min
Phil and JF indulge their autumnal mood in this discussion of Howard Phillips Lovecraft's work, specifically the essay "Notes on the Writing of Weird Fiction" and the prose piece "Nyarlathotep." Philip K. Dick, Algernon Blackwood, and David Foster Wallace…
28: Weird Music, Part Two
Oct 2, 2018 • 64 min
"Music is worth living for," Andrew W.K. sings in his latest rock anthem. In this second episode on the weirdness of music, JF and Phil focus on two works steeped in ambiguity and paradox: Bob Dylan's "Jokerman," from the landmark post-Christian album…
27: Weird Music, Part One
Sep 26, 2018 • 78 min
In this first of two episodes devoted to the music of the weird, Phil and JF discuss two works that have bowled them over: the second movement of Ligeti's Musica Ricercata, used to powerful effect in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, and the opening music…
26: Living in a Glass Age, with Michael Garfield
Sep 19, 2018 • 78 min
Stone, bronze, iron… glass? In his recent thought and writing, transdisciplinary artist and thinker Michael Garfield defines modernity as an age of glass, arguing that the entire ethos of our era inheres in the transformative enchantments of this…
25: David Cronenberg’s ‘Naked Lunch’
Sep 12, 2018 • 80 min
JF and Phil head for Interzone in an attempt to solve the enigma of Naked Lunch, David Cronenberg's 1991 screen adaptation of William S. Burroughs' infamous 1959 novel. A treatise on addiction, a diagnosis of modern ills, a lucid portrait of the artist as…
24: The Charlatan and the Magus, with Lionel Snell
Aug 28, 2018 • 58 min
As Lionel Snell, also known as Ramsey Dukes, observes in his seminal esoteric essay, "The Charlatan and the Magus" (1984), the series of trumps in a tarot deck doesn't begin with the noble Emperor or august Hierophant, but with the lowly Fool, followed by…
23: On Presence
Aug 15, 2018 • 103 min
Phil stops by JF's Canadian homestead for a raucous IRL conversation on the idea of presence. The range of topics includes objects of power, the magic of books, the mystery of the event, modernity's knack for making myths immanent, genius loci, the mad…
22: Divining the World with Joshua Ramey
Aug 1, 2018 • 69 min
American philosopher Joshua Ramey, author of The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and the Spiritual Ordeal, and Politics of Divination: Neoliberal Endgame and the Religion of Contingency, joins Phil and JF to discuss a philosophical project whose implications…
21: The Trash Stratum - Part 2
Jul 13, 2018 • 65 min
The writings of underground filmmaker Jack Smith serve as a starting point for Phil and JF's second tour of the trash stratum. In their wanderings, they will uncover such moldy jewels as the 1944 film Cobra Woman, the exploitation flick She-Devils on…
20: The Trash Stratum - Part 1
Jul 4, 2018 • 75 min
Is the Holy Grail a crushed beer can in the gutter? JF and Phil consider the implications of Philip K. Dick's line, "the symbols of the divine initially show up at the trash stratum." Gnosticism, Aleister Crowley's Thoth tarot, Thomas Ligotti's "The Order…
19: Intermezzo
Jun 20, 2018 • 68 min
After announcing that Weird Studies will be going to a bi-weekly release schedule for the summer, Phil and JF talk about how the podcast has gone so far and what's on the horizon (more guests!). Before long, they're digging deep into what makes each of…
18: Does ‘Consciousness’ Exist? - Part Two
Jun 13, 2018 • 61 min
JF and Phil finally get down to brass tacks with William James's essay "Does Consciousness Exist?" At the heart of this essay is the concept of what James calls "pure experience," the basic stuff of everything, only it isn't a stuff, but an irreducible…
17: Does ‘Consciousness’ Exist? - Part One
Jun 6, 2018 • 47 min
In this first part of their discussion of William James' classic essay in radical empiricism, "Does 'Consciousness' Exist?", Phil and JF talk about the various ways we use the slippery C-word in contemporary culture. The episode touches on the political…
16: On Dogen Zenji’s ‘Genjokoan’
May 30, 2018 • 71 min
JF and Phil tackle Genjokoan, a profound and puzzling work of philosophy by Dogen Zenji. In it, the 13th-century Zen master ponders the question, "If everything is already enlightened, why practice Zen?" As a lapsed Zen practitioner ("a shit buddhist")…
15: On Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’ - Part Two
May 23, 2018 • 64 min
In this second of a two-part conversation on Andrei Tarkovsky's 1979 film Stalker, Phil and JF explore the film's prophetic dimension, relating it to Samuel R. Delany's classic science-fiction novel Dhalgren, the cultural revolution of the 1960s, the…
14: On Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’ - Part One
May 15, 2018 • 41 min
Journey into the Zone to uncover some of the strange artifacts buried in Tarkovsky's cinematic masterpiece, Stalker (1979). In this first of a two-part conversation, Phil and JF discuss a poem by Tarkovsky's dad, compare the film with the sci-fi novel…
13: The Obscure: On the Philosophy of Heraclitus
May 9, 2018 • 81 min
Heraclitus of Ephesus was one of the great pre-Socratic thinkers. Called the Obscure and the Weeping Philosopher, he left behind a collection of fragments so mysterious and pregnant with meaning that they continue to puzzle scholars to this day. In this…
12: The Dark Eye: On the Films of Rodney Ascher
May 2, 2018 • 88 min
American filmmaker Rodney Ascher is a master of the weird documentary. Whether he be exploring wild interpretations of a classic horror film in Room 237, bracketing the phenomenon of sleep paralysis in The Nightmare, studying the uncanny power of the…
11: Art is a Haunting Spirit
Apr 25, 2018 • 75 min
M. R. James' "The Mezzotint" is one of the most fascinating, and most chilling, examples of the classic ghost story. In this episode, Phil and JF discover what this tale of haunted images and buried secrets tells us about the reality of ideas, the…
Weird Stories: M. R. James’ “The Mezzotint”
Apr 23, 2018 • 27 min
M. R. James has been hailed as the unrivalled maser of the classic ghost tale, and his powers are at their zenith in "The Mezzotint," a story that first appeared in his 1904 collection, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. In it, James reimagines the Gothic…
10: Philip K. Dick: Adrift in the Multiverse
Apr 18, 2018 • 83 min
In 1977, Philip K. Dick read an essay in France entitled, "If You Find this World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others." In it, he laid out one of the dominant tropes of his fictional oeuvre, the idea of parallel universes. It became clear in the course…
9: On Aleister Crowley and the Idea of Magick
Apr 11, 2018 • 76 min
The plan was to discuss the introduction to Aleister Crowley's classic work, Magick in Theory and Practice (1924), a powerful text on the nature and purpose of magical practice. JF and Phil stick to the plan for the first part of the show, and then veer…
8: On Graham Harman’s “The Third Table”
Apr 4, 2018 • 72 min
JF and Phil discuss Graham Harman's "The Third Table," a short and accessible introduction to "object-oriented ontology." Phil takes us on a tour of his closet, we discover that JF's kids are better at this weird studies stuff than their old man, and the…
7: The Unspeakable Mystery at the Heart of Boxing
Mar 28, 2018 • 65 min
For as long as they've been pounding the crap out of each other for good reasons, humans have also been pounding the crap out of each other for fun. Everywhere, in ever age, elaborate systems, rituals, and traditions have arisen to ring in the practice of…
6: Dungeons & Dragons, or the Reality of Illusions
Mar 21, 2018 • 78 min
The Dutch historian Johan Huizinga was one of the first thinkers to define games as exercises in world-making. Every game, he wrote, occurs within a magic circle where the rules of ordinary life are suspended and new laws come into play. No game…
5: Reading Lisa Ruddick’s “When Nothing is Cool”
Mar 13, 2018 • 68 min
Phil and JF discuss Lisa Ruddick's "When Nothing is Cool," an essay on the postmodern humanities and its allergy to essences — especially that personal essence we call soul. Maybe the soul is a heap of miscellaneous notions and influences that I paint a…
4: Exploring the Weird with Erik Davis
Mar 7, 2018 • 81 min
Scholar, journalist and author Erik Davis joins Phil and JF for a freewheeling conversation on the permutations of the weird, Burning Man, speculative realism, the uncanny, the H. P. Lovecraft/Philip K. Dick syzygy, and how the world has gotten weirder…
3: Ecstasy, Sin, and “The White People”
Feb 21, 2018 • 79 min
JF and Phil delve deep into Arthur Machen's fin-de-siècle masterpiece, "The White People," for insight into the nature of ecstasy, the psychology of fairies, the meaning of sin, and the challenge of living without a moral horizon. WORKS CITED OR DISCUSSED…
Weird Stories: Arthur Machen’s “The White People”
Feb 19, 2018 • 96 min
Weird Stories is a series of readings for Weird Studies listeners who want to dig deeper into the themes and ideas discussed on the Weird Studies podcast. In his seminal essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature," H. P. Lovecraft named Arthur Machen one of…
2: Garmonbozia
Feb 1, 2018 • 86 min
Phil and JF use a word from the Twin Peaks mythos, "garmonbozia," to try to understand what it was that the detonation of atomic bomb brought into the world. We use the fictional world of Twin Peaks as a map to the (so-called) real world and take Philip…
1: Introduction to Weird Studies
Jan 31, 2018 • 32 min
Phil and J.F. share stories of sleep paralysis and talk about Charles Fort's sympathy for the damned, Jeff Kripal's phenomenological approach to Fortean weirdness, Dave Hickey's notion of beauty as democracy, and Timothy Morton's hyperobjects.