The CU Denver English Department debuted the podcast Culture Klatsch earlier this semester, which discusses contemporary culture. To introduce the podcast to the wider student body, the English Department hosted a launch party roundtable discussion on the first episode on Sept. 26 in the Zenith Room in the Tivoli.
“We’ve been talking about using new types of content in our classes,” Phil Joseph, the CU Denver English Department Chair, explained when introducing the roundtable. Joseph added that, increasingly, podcasts have become “cultural objects” and cited Serial in particular for its influence.
Recent CU Denver graduate Nathalia Velez Ryan is the host and producer of Culture Klatsch. Velez Ryan, who graduated with an MA in English this summer, explained that she’s long been interested in pop culture and contemporary literature. Her MA final project addressed the “female gaze” in horror novels and films.
The first episode of Culture Klatsch discussed The Handmaid’s Tale, a television show that debuted on Hulu in 2017 that is based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood.
Velez Ryan said she wanted to explore The Handmaid’s Tale because she believed the novel was “having a moment, culturally,” citing recent protests across the United States in which women have worn the signature red cloaks and bonnets to draw attention to issues affecting women.
“I was wondering why it was resonating with people so much,” Velez Ryan said.
Joseph added that he thought The Handmaid’s Tale was a good discussion topic because one of the English Department professors, Colleen Donnelly, is currently teaching a course on Margaret Atwood.
“We wanted to make sure the podcast intersected with the department curriculum,” Joseph explained.
The roundtable on Sept. 26 included Velez Ryan, as well as CU Denver undergraduate English student Maddie Lutz and English professors Cate Wiley and Rodney Herring. Wiley explained to roundtable guests that she teaches The Handmaid’s Tale regularly in her classes and loves to hear new readers’ reactions.
One topic of interest for podcast listeners was the transition of The Handmaid’s Tale from the novel to a television series and how fans of Atwood felt about the adaptation.
“My objection to the series was I found all the humor in the novel was deleted,” Wiley said, adding that the main character in the novel “manages to have a little bit of a sense of humor, and I really missed that.”
Herring was ambivalent about the adaption, explaining, “It’s not pleasurable for me to watch it because it is so dark.”
Lutz agreed, explaining that she watched the series within two weeks, and “It’s a hard show to binge watch.” Lutz added that she prefers not to compare the series to the novel, as it makes the series harder to enjoy. She expressed that the series could not have remained 100 percent faithful to the series, as they needed to “keep people engaged” by adding more action.
When asked how students were responding to the podcast, Joseph said many students in the department came to the recording of the first episode, which he found encouraging given that it’s generally “very hard to get students on this campus to come to events after class.” Joseph added, “We’re hoping to build on that.”
Episodes of Culture Klatsch are available on Spotify, iTunes, and Soundcloud.