439 Poets’ Guide to Economics (with John Ramsden)

Sure, we know poets are experts in subjects like love, death, nightingales, and moonlight. But what about money? Isn’t that a little…beneath them? (Or at least out of their area of expertise?) In this episode, Jacke talks to author John Ramsden (The Poets’ Guide to Economics) about the contributions made by eleven poets to the field of economics. What did men like Defoe, Swift, Shelley, Coleridge, Sir Walter Scott, de Quincey, Ruskin, William Morris, George Bernard Shaw, Hilaire Belloc, and Ezra Pound get right? Where did they go wrong?

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2 thoughts on “439 Poets’ Guide to Economics (with John Ramsden)”

  1. Hi Jacke,
    Just listened to the excellent podcast with Bethanne Patrick on updating Bloom’s Western Canon. Just one little quibble about it: both you and Patrick identified the lack of Jewish writers as central to the Canon for Bloom. I couldn’t think of anything further from the truth. The book echoes throughout with resonances of the literary power of the Hebrew Bible. And in his other books he writes about this and other Jewish literary traditions certainly as much as anyone I’ve ever read (check out the Book of J, or Genius, or his book on the Kabbalah). In the Western Canon, reread the sections on Freud, Kafka, Borges and Proust, all of whom he regards through the lens of a Jewish literary tradition. Even Joyce he is tempted to regard as almost a Jewish writer! And although the podcast wisely centered on the choosing of the forefronted 26 or so writers and not the list of writers in the appendices that his editor insisted on, here are some of the Jewish writers he included (and often wrote more extensively on elsewhere) that I might never have discovered if not for his Western Canon or his book Genius: Cynthia Ozick, Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow, Henry Roth, Bruno Schulz, Isaac Babel, to name a few.
    Anyway, great work on the podcast. I hope you enjoy making it as much as we enjoy listening.
    Take care.

    1. Thanks for highlighting what must have been muddled in our conversation. I don’t recall either of us saying that, exactly (didn’t I say that reading Homer gives us a look at a pre-Christian tradition, and Bethanne agreed and added that it was a pre-Judeo/Christian tradition? that would seem to be almost exactly the opposite of what you’re saying we said!) In any event, I didn’t have the impression – then or now – that Bloom doesn’t value Jewish writers or consider them central to his view of the western canon. (Nor do I think he didn’t value the ancient Greeks, for that matter.) We were merely commenting on the list of 26 that he chose to highlight, and – if assigning ourselves the artificial and arbitrary task of adding ten names to the list – seeing which ten we thought would best round it out. But thank you for your comment – no doubt it was not the easiest conversation to follow at times, as often happens when one is speaking off-the-cuff and not via a script.

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