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The Casual Academic

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In-depth literary discussion with the pretence. Just good books. Literature podcast based in Madrid, Spain. We provide in-depth literary discussion without the pretence. Consulting secondary literature and unafraid to tackle great works and their ideas, our goal is to compress in-depth discussion of literature into a digestible format that won't cost you $60,000 and soul-crushing debt.

In-depth literary discussion with the pretence. Just good books. Literature podcast based in Madrid, Spain. We provide in-depth literary discussion without the pretence. Consulting secondary literature and unafraid to tackle great works and their ideas, our goal is to compress in-depth discussion of literature into a digestible format that won't cost you $60,000 and soul-crushing debt.
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Madrid, Spain


In-depth literary discussion with the pretence. Just good books. Literature podcast based in Madrid, Spain. We provide in-depth literary discussion without the pretence. Consulting secondary literature and unafraid to tackle great works and their ideas, our goal is to compress in-depth discussion of literature into a digestible format that won't cost you $60,000 and soul-crushing debt.




Aside #21 - Xmas Holidays and Our Favorite Reads of 2017

Merry Christmas from The Casual Academic! Well...more like Happy New Year! We're just in time with our top reads from 2017 - eight books (four from each of us) that come highly recommended, six of which come with full-length episodes and Asides from yours truly! Do you have a favorite TCA read from this year? Let us know on all those social media platforms, or email us at We hope you all have a great NYE, and best wishes for 2018. Cheers, Jake and Alex Twitter-...

Duration: 00:20:25

Episode 26 (Pt. 1) - Jack's Garden & The Journey in V.S. Naipaul's "The Enigma of Arrival"

In Part 1 of the two part extravaganza on V.S. Naipaul's "The Enigma of Arrival," Jacob and Alex compare Naipaul and W.G. Sebald in their style, substance and techniques. They then give their first impressions of parts one and two of the novel and discuss how 'The Journey' is especially poignant. Finally, Alex and Jacob talk about the complications of travel and what people are looking for when they are visiting a new place. We hope you enjoy the episode and let us know what you think....

Duration: 00:38:57

Aside #20 - Separating Art from Artist and looking ahead to V.S. Naipaul & "The Enigma of Arrival"

In light of current events, on this Aside we talk about if we are capable of separating art from the artist, and which mediums allow for an easier (or more difficult) disassociation of a work of art from its creator. We also look head to our new featured author, V.S. Naipaul, and his acclaimed work "The Enigma of Arrival." Join in on the discussion! Do you still stand by Wood Allan's films? Should we boycott Hemingway from our bookshelves? Let us know at - email -...

Duration: 00:20:26

Episode 25 (Pt.2) - Critical Interpretations of Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw"

We are back for Part II of our episode on Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw," and as promised we discuss the good, the bad and the ugly of the literary criticism on James' novella. Listen for the many branches of the infamous Freudian reading, the use of fairy tale and folk motifs, the gothic romance, and how James wrote a book where we're not sure who is doing more interpreting - the readers or the characters. Also, stick around for our new segment on our internet deep dives while...

Duration: 00:38:42

Episode 25 (Pt.1) - Some Changes, Narrative Games & Our First Impressions of "The Turn of the Screw"

On our 25th episode, we are inaugurating a structural change to The Casual Academic. Think of it as an experiment with the goal of making your listening experience the best it can be. We've decided to divide our episodes on our featured books into two parts: part 1 is a general discussion of the novel, the writer, and our initial impressions and questions. Part 2 is a more in-depth discussion in which we interact with secondary literature that critically analyzes the work. Pick your...

Duration: 00:35:02

Aside #19 - Intro to Henry James & Our Top Creepy Tales

On our newest Aside, we introduce our new featured author Henry James, whose infamous novella "The Turn of the Screw" we'll be reading for our next episode. After that, we have a bit of a guessing game as to what are our respective top three creepy stories. Spoiler alert: Jake wins. We also posted a new article on our website talking about the stories we've picked, with links so you can read 'em (if you haven't already) and let us know what you think! Happy Listening, Jake & Alex

Duration: 00:19:21

Episode 24 - R.L. Stevenson, Plotting & Immortality in Adolfo Bioy Casares' "The Invention of Morel"

Hello! We are very excited to present our full-length episode on Adolfo Bioy Casares' beloved novella "The Invention of Morel." Apart from our blatant enthusiasm over his writing, we talk about the influence of Robert Louis Stevenson on Casares & his buddy Borges, as well as discuss into the roles fantastic and detective plotting play in the imaginative worlds of both writers. The plot is so mind-boggling in this book that we don't want to give any spoilers here, although in the episode it...

Duration: 00:57:19

Aside #18 - Argentine Literature, Borges & an Intro to Adolfo Bioy Casares' "The Invention of Morel"

TCA is back in full gear! On this Aside, we introduce one of our favorite recent reads, Adolfo Bioy Casares' "The Invention of Morel." Listen for a discussion on Argentine literary history and its relationship to politics & identity; Casares' relationship with Jorge Luis Borges, and the role of the fantastic in his work. Finally, we preview the topics that will be covered in our full-length episode. Don't forget to check out: - our instagram @thecasualacademic for upcoming episodes, our...

Duration: 00:21:48

Episode 23 - Belief, Con Artists & The American Soul in Neil Gaiman's "American Gods"

We're back with a brand new episode, after some delay caused by the ever-dreaded summer camp schedule - just kidding, we love escaping the big city, but it's good to be back and talking about Neil Gaiman's "American Gods," a novel loved by many and recently adapted to TV. It was a lighter turn for us, but we still enjoyed Gaiman's perspective on U.S. culture and its relationship to myths touching religion, identity and the long-established character of the grifter, or con artist. There is...

Duration: 00:58:34

Episode 22 - Science in Sci-Fi, Aliens, and a Critique of Democracy in "The Black Cloud"

Special guest Shawn Moksvold joins me to discuss Sir Fred Hoyle's "The Black Cloud." We talk about real science in Science Fiction and our conceptualization of aliens. We also think about Fred Hoyle's unique criticism of democracy. If you thought "The Handmaid's Tale" was scary in how it pertains to today, you won't want to miss this episode! *Note: What happens when you try to record in 105 F heat and the A.C. is broken? This episode! We apologize for the occasional background noises....

Duration: 00:55:40

Aside #15 - A Special Guest, "Good" Science Fiction & Our Imminent Death

In this Aside, special guest Shawn Moksvold joins me to talk about our upcoming episode on Fred Hoyle's "The Black Cloud." We introduce Shawn, talk about Science Fiction in general and why it is maligned, and then preview Hoyle's novel. BE SURE NOT TO MISS: Shawn and I finally settle the great debate on which is a better Sci-Fi movie: Mars Attacks or Independence Day.

Duration: 00:24:43

Speculative Fiction, Language and Survival in Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale"

In this episode, special guest Zak Breckenridge joins us to talk about Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale." We discuss the power dynamics of language in a dystopia, survival, and maintaining a sense of self. Plus, we consider how exactly to categorize the novel or if that is even important as well as try to navigate through all the internet noise surrounding this book/television show. If you liked the novel or the show and are fed up with disingenuous internet opinions, don't miss this...

Duration: 00:59:31

Aside #14 - Lit Hub, Environmental Humanities & an Intro Discussion on "The Handmaid's Tale"

On our new Aside, Zak Breckenridge is back on the show with us to talk about getting featured on LitHub, the emerging academic field of Environmental Humanities, and of course help us introduce our new featured book "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood. We mention some of the questions we'll be exploring on our full-length episode, and shamelessly gush about how much we love Atwood's 1985 novel. WARNING: we have purposely avoided all talk about the new Hulu series adaptation, and the...

Duration: 00:20:54

Episode 19 - Narrative Techniques & The Thing Itself in Clarice Lispector's "Near to the Wild Heart"

Brazilian Literature Month at The Casual Academic is in full swing! On this episode, we discuss the debut novel of Clarice Lispector, "Near to the Wild Heart." We talk about her unique narrative style, it's break with institutionalized novelistic forms in Brazil, and of course "the thing itself." If you are interested in approaching Brazilian literature, this is the place to start. you can send us your thoughts, questions and ideas about Clarice's novel and our discussion at...

Duration: 00:48:53

Aside #12 - Brazilian Lit Month, an introduction to Clarice Lispector & "The Hour of the Star"

The Casual Academic's Brazilian Literature Month has officially started! You might say, isn't it March 20th? Well, you would be right, but we operate on a calendar the likes of Borges would appreciate. On this Aside, we speculate on the reasons why Brazilian Literature isn't the powerhouse it should be, and we present our two featured authors - Clarice Lispector and Machado de Assis. We briefly discuss the life and work of Lispector, and Alex shares his experience reading "The Hour of the...

Duration: 00:29:35

Special - Live Recording of the Launch of Literary Zine "La Errante," from Desperate Literature

The recording of the launch event of La Errante, A Journal of Art & Literature based out of Madrid, Spain. The event was recorded live last Friday (10/4/2017) at the bookstore Desperate Literature in Madrid. The event was a total success and a lot of fun. It was a true pleasure to be able to be in a place with so many amazing people. We are very proud to be able to present this recording to all of our listeners. You'll hear Layla Benitez-James, Martha Sprackland, Robert Greer, Emma...

Duration: 00:27:30

Episode 18 - Love, Violent Sexuality, and Western Influence in Yukio Mishima's Confessions of a Mask

On our 18th episode Clay Oppenhuizen joins us for a heady discussion of Yukio Mishima's 1949 novel Confessions of a Mask. We continue our brief overview of some historical and cultural background of Japan's Meiji Restoration to lay the groundwork for Mishima's love/hate relationship with the Western world, his narrator's struggles to accept himself and his society in post-war Japan, and the influence of German literature and philosophy on Mishima's thought-provoking, brilliant novel. You...

Duration: 01:00:39

Aside #11 - Clay Oppenhuizen's Return, PhDs & Yukio Mishima

On our 11th Aside we welcome back our old friend and frequent guest Clay Oppenhuizen, who catches us up on his life, studies and upcoming article on our website about Ursula LeGuin's "The Left Hand of Darkness." We then introduce our new featured author Yukio Mishima and discuss his diverse artistic output, various personae, beliefs and his novel "Confessions of Mask" for our upcoming 18th episode. Don't forget to look for us on social media, send us comments, questions or recommendations...

Duration: 00:21:58

Episode 17 - Female Gothic, Neurosis & Humor in Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle

On this episode we discuss Shirley Jackson's unsettlingly masterpiece in light of a general renewed interest in her work and life. We discuss her refreshing take on the gothic story and setting, the various interpretations of the castle and its relationship to the minds of Merricat and Constance, and celebrate the dark humor that abounds in "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" as well as the recently published "Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings." We hope you enjoy...

Duration: 01:07:44

Aside #10 - Website Articles, Winter Reads and Shirley Jackson

It would seem that we are starting a schedule of sorts. Will it last? We hope so. Anyway, on this Aside we talk about our current featured article on Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice," the books we read over the winter holidays, and mostly importantly, introduce Shirley Jackson as our new featured author here at The Casual Academic. We are reading "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" for our 17th full-length episode, so if you haven't, go out and read it! Don't forget, you can find us on...

Duration: 00:25:44

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