Entitled Opinions with Robert Harrison on KZSU 90.1
Entitled Opinions, Robert Harrison’s radio show on Stanford’s own KZSU 90.1, is now over six years old. It began, in 2005, with an interview with Laura Wittman on Michel Tournier’s bouleversement of Crusoe, the novel Friday. In the years since, and nearly 140 episodes later, luminaries of varying provenance have graced the EO airwaves, some for repeat visits. Professor of Classics Andrea Nightingale, for example, has been on multiple times, in 2005, 2009, and 2011, speaking about Epicureanism, Plato’s Symposium, and Moby Dick. Among others, Stanford colleagues Sepp Gumbrecht and Thomas Sheehan have also spent several hours at the Studio B microphone in KZSU’s headquarters.
Perusing the EO archives feels a bit like looking through Stanford’s own manorial roll – though many past guests are still vibrant presences at our institution, some no longer are. There are those who have retired, like Marjorie Perloff and Hayden White, those whose careers have taken them elsewhere, like Andrew Mitchell, now at Emory, and Jeffrey Schnapp, now at Harvard, and those who have passed on, like Richard Rorty, though he is alive and well in the memories of many friends and colleagues. Members of Stanford’s administration have been on, too, such as former dean Stephen Hinton, current dean Richard Saller, and president John Hennessy.
Doctors, priests, poets, scientists, archaeologists, tennis instructors, musicians, and even one of the “fathers of the Internet” – all EO guests. Oh, and family members – Robert is not the only Harrison that has appeared on the show; his brother Thomas appeared in 2006 to talk about the year 1910, a year he wrote about powerfully in his 1910: The Emancipation of Dissonance.
Many different voices have been heard on EO. Even the host’s voice has changed, from time to time. Joshua Landy has taken over hosting duties a few times, with shows on enchantment and disenchantment, language and reality, beauty and its contemplation, and the vocation of philosophy. Christy Wampole, now teaching at Princeton, guest-hosted two particularly memorable episodes, one with the Haitian writer Lyonel Trouillot, another with the writer and singer Sonia Korn-Grimani, who spoke to Christy about her experiences during the Holocaust.
Most recently, Jean-Marie Apostolidès has guest-hosted an episode, interviewing French playwright and theatre director Georges Lavaudant, on the occasion of their recent collaboration on a new production of Our Town here at Stanford.
That interview was in French, as were both of Christy’s interviews as a host. That language has been featured various times on the show, in particular in Robert’s interviews with the incomparable Michel Serres, whose seminars are still, after several decades, a veritable event for the Stanford community.
Various accents have been featured on the show, too - listeners will recall Russian physicist Andrei Linde’s 2006 interview on his revolutionary theory of the inflationary universe, Australian writer Shirley Hazzard’s 2006 interview about her award-winning work, Irish novelist Colm Toibin’s 2006 interview about the Master, Henry James, Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk’s 2008 interview about the culture and history of his and Robert’s birthplace, and Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis’s 2010 interview about her country’s rich literary tradition.
Voices from afar such as those mentioned join others whose distance is not only that of culture or geography but also that of time itself – Pink Floyd, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Weill, Richard Wagner, and Ludwig Van Beethoven have all made their ghostly presence felt on EO as well.
In the most recent “mini-season,” Robert Harrison and his guests have taken their listeners to the birth of phenomenology, to the Egyptian antiquity whence the Rosetta Stone was hewn, to Hegel’s Jena, to the domestic sphere of ancient Rome, to Keats’s tombstone, to our vision of the globe, to Homer’s epic battles and journeys, to the heart of the medical profession, and to the 1876 Bayreuth festival at which one of the 19th century’s great love stories, between Nietzsche and Wagner, found its untimely demise.
In the spirit of discovery, Entitled Opinions does not know precisely where it will be heading next, but it is our hope that you’ll join us, as you have already, or for the first time. In the meanwhile, we hope you’ll enjoy the many archived shows that continue to leave their digital trace on our website, and which continue to emerge, from time to time, to breathe new electric life on the air at KZSU.
- Dylan Montanari, PhD candidate, French & Italian
Robert Harrison is Rosina Pierotti Professor of Italian Literature and author of The Body of Beatrice, Forests, The Dominion of the Dead, Gardens, and several essays, including, in recent years, contributions to the New York Review of Books on Dante, Emerson, Leopardi, and the King James Bible.