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#228: New Name for an Old Ceremony

Long before the current spate of legislation aimed at transgender people—and long before 1492—people who identified as neither male nor female, but both, flourished across hundreds of Native communities in the present-day United States. Called aakíí'skassi, miati, okitcitakwe, and other tribally specific names, these people held important roles both in ceremony and everyday life, before the violence wrought by Europeans threatened to wipe them out. In his new book, Reclaiming Two-Spirits, historian Gregory Smithers sifts through hundreds of years of colonial archives, art, archaeological evidence, and oral storytelling to reveal how these Indigenous communities resisted erasure and went on to reclaim their dual identities under the umbrella term “two-spirit.”


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Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek and sponsored by the Phi Beta Kappa Society.


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7/29/2022

#241: The Original Influencer

Picture the first “It Girl,” and you’re likely to imagine young, fun Clara Bow, sex symbol of the Roaring ’20s. But behind the frame is the woman who wrote It: Elinor Glyn, an English-gentlewoman-turned-Hollywood-screenwriter whose romantic novels inspired so much of the era’s glamorous aesthetic. Hilary Hallett, a professor of history at Columbia University, brings Glyn back into the spotlight in her new biography, Inventing the It Girl. Glyn’s story, like that of so many of her heroines—and unlike her contemporaries—begins after her marriage in 1892 to a spendthrift noble with a gambling problem. The blockbuster success of her scandalous 1907 sex novel, Three Weeks, catapulted her to literary stardom and, as it so often does, to Hollywood, where she worked on dozens of films and styled silent-era superstars like Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson. Hallett joins the podcast to discuss how Glyn paved the way for a century of sexual, romantic, and psychological independence.Go beyond the episode:Hilary Hallett’s Inventing the It Girl: How Elinor Glyn Created the Modern Romance and Conquered Early HollywoodWatch It, the “Elinor Glyn–Clarence Badger Production” that made Clara Bow a star in 1927Meet more neglected Hollywood women: Dorothy Arzner remains the most prolific woman studio director in the history of cinema; start with Merrily We Go to Hell from 1932Jean Smart will play a mostly accurate version of Elinor Glyn in Damien Chazelle’s upcoming film Babylon, about the decadence of the Roaring ’20sVisit our episode page for more photographs of Glyn, including her scintillating turn as the Tiger QueenTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Subscribe:iTunes•Stitcher•Google Play•AcastHave suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!
7/22/2022

#240: Take Two Shots and Call Me in the Morning

The Pain Killer, the Penicillin, the Doctor—some cocktail menus lean heavily on the idea of “self-medication.” But for millennia, alcohol was medicine. Weak beer was safer to drink than water, and eau de vie was distilled from any number of fruits to treat colic or a cold. Though the ancient Greeks wrote at length about the medical applications of wine, even earlier uses for fermented beers and beverages appear on Sumerian tablets, Egyptian papyri, and Vedic texts. Cocktail connoisseur Camper English, who has been covering the drinks industry for more than 15 years, turns his attention to this long and storied history in Doctors and Distillers, which traces modern mixology back to its therapeutic roots.Go beyond the episode:Camper English’s Doctors and Distillers: The Remarkable Medicinal History of Beer, Wine, Spirits, and CocktailsRead English’s series on four bitter botanicals: cinchona bark, rhubarb root, wormwood, and gentianEnglish’s blog Alcademics has a wealth of cocktail-related articles, including how to make your simple syrup last for more than six months and how to dehydrate liqueurs (aka his Solid Liquids Project)Ever had a drink with crystal-clear ice in it? Raise a glass to English, who discovered directional freezing in 2009Camper English’s Preferred Gin & Tonic:Keep your gin and tonic in the refrigerator for the crispest medicinal cocktail:Start with a lime wheel at the bottom of a double Old-Fashioned glass and press down to express the citrus oil and a little juiceFill the glass with ice, then add 3 ounces of ginTop with 2 ounces of tonic water and gently stirResist the urge to add more garnishes!And for the less gin-inclined, the Chrysanthemum:Fill a mixing glass with iceAdd 2 ounces dry vermouth, 1 ounce Bénédictine, and 3 dashes of absinthe; stir until well-chilledStrain into a coupe glass and garnish with an orange twistTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!
7/15/2022

#239: You, Me, and the Deep Blue Sea

In Great Britain, some 3,000 villages and towns disappeared in the Middle Ages due to the effects of the Black Death alone. Zoom out on the time scale, then factor in storms and floods, economic or social shifts, climate change, and war, and the number of abandoned settlements balloons. The historian and broadcaster Matthew Green selected eight to visit in his new book, Shadowlands: A Journey Through Britain’s Lost Cities and Vanished Villages. From the mysterious Neolithic ruins of Skara Brae and the medieval city that fell off a cliff, Green takes us to the militarized STANTA villages of Norfolk and drowned Capel Celyn in the 20th century. As man-made climate change causes ever more extreme weather events and threatens to engulf our coastal cities, these places become more than a memorial to the past—but a harbinger of the future that awaits us.Matthew Green’s Shadowlands: A Journey Through Britain’s Lost Cities and Vanished VillagesAnd if you’re closer to London than we are, take a walking tour with Green featuring medieval wine, ghosts, gin, or coffeeThere may be no more people on St. Kilda, but there sure are sheep: meet the Soay and Boreray breeds of this little land and buy some of their woolPerhaps if you’re lucky, you too can spot the ruined spires of Dunwich on a tour of the Suffolk coastCapel Ceylin and the STANTA villages are a precursor to our future in more ways than one: though it’s commonly said that just 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global emissions, the military’s role as an obstacle to meaningful environmental policy is rarely mentioned. The U.S. military is the single largest consumer of oil in the world, and militaries around the world contribute some six percent of global emissions—though countries aren’t required to count armed forces data in their annual totals.Visit our episode page for links to medieval primary sources—like the travelogues of the inimitable Gerald of Wales—and a map of all the places mentioned in the episodeTune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!