Sunday, March 19, 2023

Paula Marantz Cohen's "Talking Cure"

Paula Marantz Cohen is Distinguished Professor of English and Dean of the Pennoni Honors College at Drexel University. Her books include Of Human Kindness: What Shakespeare Teaches Us about Empathy; Alfred Hitchcock: The Legacy of Victorianism; Silent Film and the Triumph of the American Myth; and the bestselling novel Jane Austen in Boca.

Cohen applied the "Page 99 Test" to her new book, Talking Cure: An Essay on the Civilizing Power of Conversation, and reported the following:
Page 99 is part of the chapter titled “Schools of Talk,” which gives a quick overview of various artistic and cultural groups who gathered together to converse. On this particular page, I am in the midst of a discussion of the Romantics, and make reference to the creative sibling relationships of Charles and Mary Lamb and of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. I also refer on this page to the group that gathered in Geneva one stormy night that included Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley; Mary’s half-sister Claire Claremont; Lord Byron; and Byron’s physician, John Polidori. Their conversation about galvanism, inspired by the lightning outside, led to Mary Shelley’s writing of Frankenstein.

I can’t say that this page is particularly representative of my book as a whole. I think more characteristic are chapters that connect conversation to other, more personal and whimsical things: food and drink, French culture, seminar teaching, discussing Shakespeare on zoom, etc. In fact, the chapter in which page 99 falls was the most difficult for me to write since it is not about my own cultural observations (though it obviously it contains my selection of and take on these various groups). Along with the Romantic poets, I present mini-commentary on Socrates’ conversations, Dr. Johnson’s Literary Club, The Bloomsbury Group, The Algonquin Round Table, The Partisan Review Crowd, and others. In writing this chapter I felt obliged to cover a vast terrain in a cursory fashion and am likely to be taken to task for mistakes and omissions. Still, I think the page reflects my interest in literature and family dynamics and a bit of my sense of humor.
Visit Paula Marantz Cohen's website.

The Page 99 Test: Of Human Kindness.

--Marshal Zeringue