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Tyler Cowen engages today’s deepest thinkers in wide-ranging explorations of their work, the world, and everything in between.

New conversations every other Wednesday. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Aug 28, 2019

As a graduate student, Hollis Robbins helped Henry Louis Gates, Jr. unravel a mystery about the provenance of a mid-19th century book. Robbins helped date the book by discovering allusions to popular literature of that period — her focus at the time. The realization that this perspective would bring valuable insight to other 19th century African American literature prompted her to make that her specialty.

Now a dean at Sonoma Sate University, Robbins joined Tyler to discuss 19th-century life and literature and more, including why the 1840s were a turning point in US history, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Calvinism, whether 12 Years a Slave and Django Unchained are appropriate portraits of slavery, the best argument for reparations, how prepaid postage changed America, the second best Herman Melville book, why Ayn Rand and Margaret Mitchell are ignored by English departments, growing up the daughter of a tech entrepreneur, and why teachers should be like quarterbacks.

Read a full transcript enhanced with helpful links.

Recorded June 21st, 2019

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