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Discovering the ArtSci "Hold That Thought" Podcast

This summer, I am working as the Communications Intern for Arts & Sciences. As a rising senior, I have been privy to most of the cool things Arts & Sciences has for us, but there has been one resource that I think most people aren’t really aware of: our podcast, Hold that Thought.  

It delves into all sorts of interesting topics, from cosmic rays to false memory to Chinese literature, and it condenses them into quick 15-minute segments. Usually it features a WashU professor or visiting expert talking about the topics that inspire and interest them. With over 15 topics and 100 episodes, it would get daunting to hear about this podcast and just jump into listening. Where should you start? Lucky for you, I decided to show how interesting and useful these podcasts are by listening to them and picking out the best ones for you!

A quick note on my “research methodology” if you will. With so many different seasons and episodes, it would be impossible to listen to them all and get this article in on time. So I first started by picking 18 podcast episodes, varying in topic and subject. Below are my top five that I feel everyone should listen to and my personal favorites. I would like to preface by saying this is based solely on my opinion. As a psychology and anthropology major, I obviously was more swayed by some podcasts and topics than others. But in my process, I tried to pick a good handful from every category, from English to psychology to earth science. Hopefully this list shows some balance of interests, ideas, and stories. Enjoy!

1. FB Eyes
This was the first podcast I listened to so maybe it won me over from being first on the list, but honestly, I would not even care. The topic is very interesting, talking about the work of J. Edgar Hoover against black literature or “counter literature”. The tactics Hoover’s FBI used were racist and creepy, and I was surprised this was not taught in your typical history class. I learned things I had heard about but never really had the chance to dive into—or knew how to if I’m being honest. Professor William Maxwell breaks it down so that it’s easy to listen to and helps you get your daily amount of history facts or supplement any classes you’re taking in history, English, or American culture studies.

2. Irregular Intimacies
I might be biased because I have met Adrienne Davis and personally think she is the greatest, but this podcast really struck me as refreshing and a new take on how we see relationships and their interaction with the law. She goes into different relationships such as from a will (aka giving half your estate to your dog), polygamy, and prostitution. They’re touchy subjects but ones that are an important part of how we understand the law and its interference in our lives. She also talks in a way that is clear but helps you to understand the gravity of the statement and history she is telling. I would recommend even if you just want some new perspectives on relationships we don’t usually think about.

3. High School Students Should Study Earth Science, and Here’s Why
In my quest to find my top 5 podcasts, I knew it would not be fair to exclude anything “science-y” for lack of research integrity, so I added this one to my list with little excitement or desire to listen. I was sorely mistaken. Geophysicist Michael Wysession not only makes a great case for why we need to learn more sciences—especially earth sciences—in high school but, dare I say it, is super fun to listen to. You can hear the care and passion in his voice, plus he puts it in a context that shows how dangerous lack of science education can be and why we need to fix it. He made the assertion that science class should be less listening and more doing, which made me wonder, perhaps if I had more hands-on science classes in high school maybe I would have less aversion to it now.

4. Your Brain on Movies, Part I
This podcast basically explains what happens in our brain when we watch movies. The reason this one made my top five is not only because I love movies, but the way psychology professor Jeffrey Zacks described how our brain works/reacts when we see a movie was fascinating. Not only did he kind of sound like Seth Rogen (a plus), I actually learned some cool and quick tidbits that didn’t hurt my brain to think about. You could definitely tell he is very into his work, and it makes you more aware of what you’re seeing and why you might cry at that really cheesy Kate Hudson rom-com.

5. Courting the Muse
Okay, to be honest, I was very hesitant about putting this podcast on my top five just because the story is weird. But this was one of the podcasts I was most fascinated by, and by the time the fifteen minutes was up, I wanted to learn more. Basically the podcast talks with Henry Schvey, a director, playwright, and professor of drama and comparative literature at WashU, about Oskar Kokoschka, who was an Austrian expressionist painter and playwright in early 20th century Vienna, and his obsession with the woman he considered his muse. While he is away in the war, his muse leaves him, so when he gets back, he is lonely and heartbroken. Unable to do his craft without his muse, he orders a replica doll of her to keep around the house. Creepy, right? Probably the coolest part is that Professor Schvey actually met Kokoschka, who at that time was happily married (to a real woman) and retired. The plot is weird, but it was a crazy story that had me listening up until the end.  

So that is my top five, but I suggest that you listen too! I just gave you my favorites, but here are some honorable mentions:

Behind the Mask, Part I: A really cool series on superheroes and superhero genre that answers that pesky question: What is the difference between a super hero and a superhero?

Inequality at Work: This one made my top 8, and it was super hard to decide between this one and Irregular Intimacies. Professor Adia Harvey Wingfield really breaks down institutional racism and racism in the workplace. I highly recommend that everyone listen to this important podcast.

Shame: Friend or Enemy? Fiction writer Stefan Merrill Block talks about his work and dealing with shame in his writing. It struck me as a very poignant and relevant podcast about accepting shame and using it to fuel your success. I think we as college students can relate to what Block talked about, such as shame of not being enough, and it was kind of cathartic to hear how he slowly learned to deal with his shortcomings and how to move forward.

So if you have time to kill on your lunch break or are tired of the same old traffic jams, consider Hold That Thought