Harvard professor and Nas discussing Walt Whitman | Summary and Q&A

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February 10, 2017
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Harvard University
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Harvard professor and Nas discussing Walt Whitman

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Summary

In this video, the speaker discusses the concept of urban troubadours and how it relates to their own work. They explore the idea of being descriptive and detailed in their writing, highlighting the bigger world beyond the immediate focal point. They also compare their writing style to that of Whitman, noting the humility and energy to process the city that both share.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the meaning of "Slough" in the context mentioned?

"Slough" refers to a blob of mud or something unattractive and messy. It is likely used here to describe how the tires of carts gather this messy substance while moving through the city streets.

Q: What is the significance of the term "promenade"?

The term "promenade" is used to describe a leisurely walk or stroll, typically along a boulevard or street. It symbolizes a sense of taking in one's surroundings and observing the details of the city.

Q: What does the speaker mean by "interrogating thumb"?

The phrase "interrogating thumb" could be interpreted as the movement of the bus driver pointing or gesturing in a commanding manner. It is likely a way for the driver to direct the bus or give instructions to others.

Q: How does the speaker feel about the descriptive nature of their work?

The speaker appreciates the descriptive aspect of their writing and sees it as a way to capture the larger world beyond what is immediately in focus. They find value in exploring and conveying the details of the city through their words.

Q: Does the speaker also incorporate a sense of detail in their other works?

Yes, the speaker mentions that they also utilize this sense of detail in their other works, specifically referencing their writing in "rewind." They believe that there is always another world behind the current moment and strive to capture that through their writing.

Q: How does the concept of urban troubadours relate to Whitman's writing?

The speaker believes that their writing style, characterized as urban troubadours, shares similarities with Whitman's work. Like Whitman, they strive to encompass both the humility and the energy necessary to explore and process the city's details in their writing.

Q: What separates the speaker's writing from Whitman's?

While both the speaker and Whitman possess a similar sense of humility and energy towards the city, the speaker believes that their own writing incorporates even more detailed descriptions. They strive to provide a vivid picture of their surroundings, highlighting the abundance of the world outside the immediate focal point.

Q: What is unique about the speaker's writing style?

The speaker's writing style encompasses the humility and energy associated with urban troubadours, focusing on the detailed depiction of the city. They aim to convey the richness and complexity of their surroundings, creating a sense of awe and wonder.

Q: How does the speaker view the world beyond the immediate focal point?

The speaker sees the world beyond the immediate focal point as a bigger and more expansive realm. They believe that there is always another layer or dimension to explore and uncover. This perspective shapes their writing and influences their approach to capturing their surroundings.

Q: What is the importance of having humility in writing about the city?

Humility is important in writing about the city as it allows the writer to approach their surroundings with genuine curiosity and openness. It helps the writer to truly observe and capture the details of the city, avoiding any assumptions or biases. Humility also fosters a connection with the reader, allowing them to relate to the experiences conveyed in the writing.

Takeaways

The concept of urban troubadours, as discussed in the video, emphasizes the value of detailed descriptions and capturing the bigger world beyond the immediate focal point. This writing style draws inspiration from Walt Whitman, incorporating humility and energy in processing the city. By striving to convey the richness and complexity of their surroundings, the speaker aims to create a sense of awe and wonder in their audience. Humility plays a vital role in this process, allowing the writer to genuinely observe and connect with the city and its inhabitants.

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