Episode 8: Karen Cunningham

Square Art

On the first part of my conversation with English Professor Karen J. Cunningham, she tells me about her early interests in books about horses and sulky racing. Books she read in her free time as a kid like Nancy Drew as well as books in her adulthood such as Michael Connelly’s character Heironymus Bosch. She tells me about her affection for Southern California and what she finds profound about it. Her childhood moving around Southern California and Astoria, Oregon. Undergraduate life in Sacramento and living in San Francisco. Stories about her motorcycle riding, cable car driving husband. Her professional career at Pacific Bell in a sink-or-swim program managing circuit provisioning. Other jobs teaching English to Japanese business people and library assistant. The epiphany to enroll in graduate school. Learning from her life the capacity to manage obstacles. She recalls job discrimination at Pac Bell. Enduring sexism as one of the few women at her company. The short term and long term consequences of taking action. Our bewilderment on Harvey Weinstein and the culture that allows his behavior to persist. The public obligation to prevent future injustices by taking action.

In part two, we discuss her professional career interest in law and violence in the plays of William Shakespeare. Her research into the theatricality of public executions. Description of the Greek & Roman execution known as the Brazen Bull. The political staging of executions. Theatrical nature of execution by quartering in Renaissance England. The political climate of Shakespeare’s time. Cultural implications of the law through the eyes of an artist such as Shakespeare. How the theory of cultural anthropologist Clifford Gertz is applicable to interpretation of constitutional law. Her other Shakespeare interest: gender. She examines the play Measure for Measure. The magic of writers who seem to transcend time. How over the centuries humanity has recurring issues because we cannot solve the complexity of them absolutely. Finally, the art she adores, such as painter Edward Hooper (e.g. Nighthawk, Early Sunday Morning, Railroad Sunset, Seven A.M.), Mark Rothko and the sculpture of David by Michelangelo. Find out more about her on Department of English, UCLA or by her Curriculum Vitae.

Part One on SoundCloud & Part Two on SoundCloud

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