Episode 64: Monumental Sculpture of Preclassic Mesoamerica

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History
Guest: Julia Guernsey, Professor, Department of Art and Art History

Santa-Leticia-El-Salvador-potbelly6401-e1419783523709The Preclassic period of Mesoamerican history (1500 BC – 200 AD) has left fascinating historical clues about what life was like in the form of monumental sculptures hewn out of boulders commonly called “pot bellies” (barrigones in Spanish) due to their distinctive shape. Yet, despite the fact that writing emerged during this time, the pot bellies lack any sort of description of historical context.  Who built them and why?

Professor Julia Guernsey from UT’s Department of Art and Art History has recently published a book in which she combines the methodology of history, art history, and archaeology to offer a new look into this mysterious period at the beginning of recorded history in the Americas.

Download audio (right-click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 63: Ezra and the Compilation of the Pentateuch

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Richard Bautch, Associate Professor of Humanities, St Edward’s University, Austin

The authorship of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament–known as the Torah or the Pentateuch–has been traditionally attributed to Moses. This raised some questions, however: would the most humble of men really describe himself as such? During the Enlightenment, scholars identified four distinct authors of the Pentatuch, creating the long-standing “Documentary Hypothesis.”  In the past twenty five years, a new trend in Biblical Studies has begun to challenge this long held view.

Guest Richard Bautch from St Edward’s University in Austin is one of the scholars taking a new look at the Biblical figure Ezra and his relationship to this critical text. In this episode, we discuss current thinking about the formation of the Pentateuch during the time of Ezra.

Download audio (mp3-right click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 30: Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past & Professor, Department of History
Guest: Denise A. Spellberg, Professor, Department of History

TJQIn 2006, Keith Ellison, a newly elected congressman from the state of Minnesota, and the first Muslim elected to Congress, took his oath of office on a Qur’an from Thomas Jefferson’s personal library. Why did one of the founding fathers own a Qur’an?  What was his opinion of it? And how did it influence his ideas about concepts of religious liberty that would eventually be enshrined in the Constitution?

Guest Denise A. Spellberg, author of a new book called Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders, sheds light on a little known facet of American history: our earliest imaginings of and engagements with the Islamic world, and comes to some surprising conclusions about the extend of religious freedoms envisioned by one of the key founding fathers.

Download audio (right click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 29: The Slavic Vampire

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Thomas Garza, Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies & Texas Language Center

NosferatuShadowLong before Bill and Sookie, Bella and Edward, there was the upyr’, a mythical creature that caused crops to fail, infants to die in their cribs, and plagues to spread throughout the Slavic lands of eastern Europe. How did we go from upyr’ to Vampire: the creature of the night who survives by drinking on blood and sparkles in the sunshine? And, more importantly, what can we learn about medieval Eastern Europe by talking about vampire myths and mythology?

Guest Thomas Garza takes us on the trail of vampires from their eleventh century origins to the days of Stoker, Harris, and Meyer, and helps us learn a thing or two about how society copes with its deepest fears along the way.

Download audio (right click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 28: “Demonic Possession” in Early Modern Europe

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History
Guest: Brian Levack, John E. Green Regents Professor in History, University of Texas at Austin

LevackMariazellDescriptions of common men and women convulsing violently, speaking in tongues,  expelling foreign objects like nails and pins, and levitating above their beds seem ripped out of the pages of a bestselling horror novel, or the plot to a (hopeful) blockbuster movie. But, in fact, medieval church records from the 16th and 17th century recount hundreds of cases like these, in which the afflicted was reported to be possessed by a demon or the Devil himself.

In this supernatural-themed episode (just in time for Halloween!), guest Brian Levack talks about his latest book The Devil Within: Possessions and Exorcism in the Christian West, and his research into the deeper social causes and meanings of these alleged “demonic possessions” in early modern Europe.

Download audio (right-click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 17: The Buddha and His Time

Host: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Keely Sutton, doctoral student, Department of Asian Studies

"Buddha Amoghasiddhi with Eight Bodhisattvas [Tibet (Central regions)] (1991.74)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1991.74 (September 2008)

Buddhism is unquestionably one of the world’s major faith traditions, but its origins are somewhat shrouded in mythology and legend surrounding its founder, Siddharta Gautama, the historical Buddha. Who was he? When and where did he live? And what were the social currents and forces in his own time that shaped his worldview and led him to renounce the world in an effort to save humanity from itself?

Guest Keeley Sutton from UT’s Department of Asian Studies helps us understand the historical Buddha and the era in which he lived.

Download audio (right-click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 15: The “Era Between The Empires” of Ancient India

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Patrick Olivelle, Professor, Department of Asian Studies

The 6th century late Gupta period Dashavatara temple Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh at sunset.

Ancient, or Classical, India (300s BC-400s AD) was a seminal period in history. Nearly everything that is associated with classical India, the epics such as the the R?m?ya?a and the Mah?bh?rata, and great temple architecture, came out of this period. Great kings like A?oka left their mark on the classical world. Moreover, this was the period when oral traditions were written down, and the classical Vedic religion began to take on a form that we understand as Hindusim.

Guest Patrick Olivelle from UT’s Department of Asian Studies describes the Maurya and Gupta Empires and the flourishing period of South Asian history “between the empires.”

Download audio (right-click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 4: Perspectives of the Founding Fathers

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Henry A. Wiencek, doctoral student, Department of History, and assistant editor, Not Even Past.

American political discourse refers a lot to the ideals of the Founding Fathers, but the Founding Fathers often found themselves at odds with one another with very different religious, political, and economic ideas. In this episode, we’ll examine some of the lesser known Founding Fathers, and examine the ranges of opinions they held about issues from slavery to states’ rights and their opinions on the form of the new American Republic.

Guest Henry A. Wiencek from UT’s Department of History walks us through an era of American history that, it turns out, isn’t so easy to summarize as it might appear.

Download audio (right click to save)

Continue reading