47. Sustaining a Connection w/ Ulrich Baer

In Episode 47, we talk to NYU professor and podcaster Ulrich Baer about free speech, podcasts as opportunities for sustained conversations, and the role of poetry and fiction as witnesses to both human suffering and human resilience.

Ulrich Baer is a writer, translator, and literary scholar. He holds an appointment as University Professor at New York University, where he teaches poetry and photography, and is the director of NYU’s Center for the Humanities. He has twice been honored with the Golden Dozen Teaching Award and is the recipient of Getty, Humboldt, and Guggenheim fellowships. He received his BA from Harvard College and an M.Phil. and PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale University. Learn more on his website.

Check out Uli’s podcasts: Think About It and The Proust Questionnaire. You can find all of his social media accounts here.

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

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“[Translating and transcribing Holocaust survivor stories] informed a lot of what I always thought academia is: to actually make accessible, to transmit, and to preserve stories that aren’t heard so widely.” @UliBaer

“I always felt poetry, writing, literature is the way of bearing witness to something.” @UliBaer

“I’ve always loved the part of writing that’s editing, that’s bringing people together, working with other people.” @UliBaer

“For me [podcasting] is really more to be in conversation with people in a time when a sustained connection is hard.” @UliBaer

“Part of what I try to do [with my podcast] is model for my students what is a sustained conversation about something, where you actually really care, you don’t just care to get it right, but you care to understand how difficult it is.” @UliBaer

“We don’t quite know what the next thing is going to be anymore. Our language will have changed, and I think that is actually the power of this medium [podcasting] right now, to transmit. I feel a lot of my work is translation.” @UliBaer

“To actually be close to somebody, who tells you something and what they really feel about you, I think that’s very essential, and I think that part of connection is what the podcast [provides]…That’s also the origin of teaching. I think teaching is not belittling people, but taking somebody seriously.” @UliBaer

“Poetry is rooted so much in two experiences, which is the experience of deep connection, which is love […] and the other one is to recall or to acknowledge the dead, to sort of call back to us that someone existed.” @UliBaer

“Poets…responded very quickly to 9/11. They wrote poetry. The novelists took years, and the poets were standing on the roof watching the second plane, literally, and had something in the afternoon.” @UliBaer

“I think teaching is more than conveying information, but this bringing into the space…It’s a magical dimension.” @UliBaer

“A podcast is a good way to slow down this conversation and get people in the room who actually have thought about this for a very long time.” @UliBaer

“I believe in the power of literature.” @UliBaer

“People are much louder when they are against you than when they are for you.” @UliBaer

“My podcast is really where I go to learn stuff.” @UliBaer

“[Students] come from a place that is both knowledge and experience. Their experience actually is very valid and important.” @UliBaer

“The First Year class, for me, is my favorite place in the University.” @UliBaer

“I’ve always thought teaching is not just confronting people with something, but actually creating a space where they can engage with it.” @UliBaer

“[Teaching is] an art and it’s a skill.” @UliBaer

“We haven’t really figured out what curated spaces are and the town square…which in itself is a problematic fantasy.” @UliBaer

This episode was recorded on January 25, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod.

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