public humanities at yale | e-newsletter | September 2020

Professor Claudia Rankine spoke with Matt Jacobson on August 10, 2020 about her new book of essays, Just Us: An American Conversation, out from Graywolf Press on September 8, 2020 and her 2020 play, Help, which was postponed in March due to the pandemic. (see podcast links below)

Welcome to our September back-to-school issue of the Public Humanities @ Yale monthly e-newsletter.  

We hope you are staying safe and healthy.  

This month we continue our podcast series, "What Does the Pandemic Teach?" a series of interviews inspired by Professor Matt Jacobson's popular undergraduate lecture course, "The History of Right Now."  In this conversation, Matt Jacobson interviews Claudia Rankine, Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale, whose poems, essays, plays and teaching are helping to make sense of this moment in history.  Her newest book, Just Us: An American Conversation, will be out from Graywolf Press a week from today, on September 8, 2020.    

In this issue, Matt and Claudia discuss Just Us and her recent play, Help, which was given its World Premiere at The Shed in NYC in March before being postponed due to the pandemic.

For more reading related to this interview, here are several articles: "I Wanted to Know What Men Thought About Their White Privilege.  So I Asked" (essay by Claudia Rankine, The New York Times Magazine, July 17, 2019); "Claudia Rankine looks at White Privilege from 35,000 Feet" (The New York Times, February 26, 2020); "'We Have No Practice Talking about Race in this Country' Claudia Rankine on White Privilege and Her New Play Help" (Time Magazine, March 6, 2020).

We will relaunch our "Democracy in America" Tuesday evening at the New Haven Free Public Library series as a new monthly Webinar.  Our first event will be on Tuesday September 22 from 7:00-8:00.  Matt Jacobson will be in conversation with Andy Horowitz, author of Katrina: A History, 1915-2015 (Harvard University Press, 2020).

Feel free to share these podcasts with friends and please send us your comments and suggestions at  

And please take good care!

Public Humanities Now

podcast| 5 minutes

Excerpt 1 | "What Does the Pandemic Teach?" Matt Jacobson introduces Claudia Rankine and her poetry, essays and plays.  

podcast| 5 minutes

Excerpt 2 | "What Does the Pandemic Teach?"  Matt Jacobson and Claudia Rankine discuss "this moment [of the pandemic] as a moment of reflection."  

hear the entire 40 minute conversation here.

podcast| 4 minutes

Excerpt 3 | "What Does the Pandemic Teach?" Matt Jacobson and Claudia Rankine discuss her 2020 play, Help, which was in previews at the Shed in March and postponed due to the pandemic.  Read about the play in Playbill "Go Behind the Scenes of the World Premiere of Help with Claudia Rankine" (March 3, 2020) here.

podcast| 15 minutes

Excerpt 4 | "What Does the Pandemic Teach?" Matt Jacobson and Claudia Rankine discuss her new book of essays, Just Us: An American Conversation, out from Graywolf Press on September 8, 2020.  See a description in "15 Books to Watch for in September."  Read a brief interview about the book in Oprah Magazine here.

hear the entire 40 minute conversation here.

(Hilda Huang, piano)

September Public Events

Please Join Us:

Tuesday September 22, 2020 from 7:00-8:00pm

"Democracy in America" @ the Virtual New Haven Free Public Library:
Matt Jacobson in Conversation with Andy Horowitz on his new book, Katrina: A History, 1915-2015 (Harvard University Press, 2020)

Link to join the Webinar on Tuesday September 22 @ 7:00pm

Summer News

Please check our updated website and many news items at Yale Public Humanities.  Below are some highlights:

Several members of the affiliated faculty, including Professors David Blight and Leah Mirakhor published recent op-eds.  

See Daphne A. Brooks on Mamie Smith's Crazy Blues in the New York Times 

Beinecke Library Curator Melissa Barton and Prof. David Blight were both interviewed by the New York Times about the Beinecke's acquisition of Walter Evans's "renowned private collection" of Frederick Douglass papers.  

The co-director of Public Humanities, Matt Jacobson, recently spoke with an amazing group of students from Martin Luther King High School in Denver about race and pedagogy for their podcast, "Know Justice, Know Peace."  

Matt Jacobson was also in conversation with Dr. Lisa Coleman at the NYU Global Inclusion, Diversity and Strategic Innovation on "Contingencies of Whiteness."  

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