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Spoken Nerd: Criticism in Conversation

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What does it mean when we get our cultural criticism through our ears rather than our eyes?

Culture podcasts such as Slate Culture GabfestThe Final CutThe Rereaders and The Canon are among the most popular in Australia and across the world. Many of these shows combine exhaustive analysis with robust debate of new books, films and music. They’re edging into the turf of serious cultural criticism – terrain formerly dominated by the written word.

In this conversation, Slate Culture Gabfest's Dana Stevens and Stephen Metcalf join Bhakthi Puvanenthiran, Mel Campbell and Cerise Howard for a chat about the form and craft of criticism, exploring new and evolving formats and the implications for artists, audiences and working critics themselves. Our panelists – who work across podcast, radio and prose – weigh up the differences between conversational criticism versus the traditional model of the solo, written perspective.

Photo of the panellists

Is it time we pushed snooty critics off their high horses and embraced more democratic forms of criticism, where competing views are aired and challenged? How important is the singular, informed, authoritative voice in arts opinion and coverage? And what does all this mean for critics, artists and audiences in the context of shrinking arts pages in newspapers?

Who?

Portrait of Stephen Metcalf

Stephen Metcalf

Stephen Metcalf is Slate's critic at large and a host of the Culture Gabfest. He is working on a book about the 1980s.

Portrait of Dana Stevens

Dana Stevens

Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic. Previously, she wrote the Slate television and pop-culture column Surfergirl for two years. She has also written for the New York Times, the Washington Post Book World, Bookforum and the Atlantic. She has a PhD in comparative literature from UC–Berkeley and lives in Brooklyn.

Portrait of Bhakthi Puvanenthiran

Bhakthi Puvanenthiran

Bhakthi Puvanenthiran is Managing Editor of Crikey, writing mainly on politics and the media. Previously Bhakthi was a journalist and editor at the Age and Sydney Morning Herald covering arts, entertainment and business. She co-hosted the podcast Hard Bargain, is a regular media commentator and sits on the board of the National Young Writers’ Festival.

Portrait of Mel Campbell

Mel Campbell

Mel Campbell is a freelance journalist and critic who co-hosts the fortnightly literature and culture podcast The Rereaders. She is a columnist on writing at Overland magazine, and a university lecturer and writer-for-hire on film, TV and media. Her first book was the nonfiction investigation Out of Shape: Debunking Myths about Fashion and Fit (2013), and she’s currently co-writing a second romantic comedy novel with Anthony Morris; their first was The Hot Guy (2017).

Portrait of Cerise Howard

Cerise Howard

Cerise Howard is a co-host of Plato's Cave, a film criticism show broadcast live and podcast weekly by 3RRR. Her writing on film has appeared in Senses of Cinema, the Age, Big Issue, and in far farther-flung places besides, and she is a regular juror and panellist at film festivals and events at home and away. A perpetual plotter and schemestress, Cerise is the artistic director of the Czech and Slovak Film Festival of Australia and the bassist for Queen Kong and the Homo sapiens, led by Yana Alana.

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