Proust. Mimetic desire. The inflationary universe. 1910, American writers in Paris. The history of the book. These topics may sound unusual enough to pique your interest. They may float through your mind once in a while, capturing an hour or two of your curiosity. They may periodically send you to the library on reading binges. But for KZSU-FM’s Entitled Opinions, they are meat and drink. Since 2005, professor-broadcaster Robert Harrison has explored these topics and many more besides in the intellectually expansive long-form conversations he conducts on Stanford University’s radio station. Always beginning with a monologue, Harrison spends the bulk of his broadcasts thinking aloud about these rich topics with philosophers like Richard Rorty, novelists like Orhan Pamuk, many a fellow academic, listeners, and his own brother. (Sometimes he up and conducts the entire show in French.) Each and every one of these he makes available as a podcast, on the show’s site and on iTunes.
“These are not like Stanford courses online,” said Harrison in a Stanford University News profile. “These are programs where intellectuals speak to each other at a high level of intellectual exchange—no one is excluded per se, but you do have to have intellectual curiosity. We refuse to dumb it down.” Having recently returned from a prolonged hiatus, Entitled Opinions has kept not dumbing it down with conversations on geography, hermaphroditism, political philosopher John Rawls, and Petrarch and Petrarchism. I myself engaged Harrison in a long-form interview on my previous podcast, The Marketplace of Ideas, in which we discussed the evolution of his show; his books on forests, gardens, and the dead; his life as a rock musician (so that explains those episodes on Pink Floyd, The Doors, and Jimi Hendrix); and getting called “the most pretentious man in the world” over e-mail. We die-hard Entitled Opinions fans demand to know these things.