Emily Austin

Emily Austin, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Bitove Family Faculty Fellow

Are you reading anything that’s giving you insight or useful and usable distraction at this point?

Like a lot of people, I’ve revisited Love in the Time of Cholera. So many marvelous sentences and yet almost nothing happens. I’ve also spent a lot of time trying to figure out why the Roman poet Lucretius ends what he advertises as a self-help book for anxious people with a lurid and graphic description of a plague that kills pretty much everyone, even the dogs. I’m still perplexed. Otherwise I’m just re-reading some cherished books because I know they won’t disappoint me.

How about music? Films?

These days I play music all day unless I’m writing or talking to someone. Bonnie Prince Billy’s ‘I Have Made a Place’ is the most optimistic, bizarre, and beautiful album about the end of the world and quarantine I’ve ever heard (especially ‘This is Far From Over’ and ‘Thick Air’). I picked it up in February and couldn’t have known it would prepare me for what lay ahead. Also, the B-side of John Prine’s ‘Tree of Forgiveness’ over and over. Films affect me powerfully because I have a weak emotional constitution, so I only watch them in good times.

What do you miss the most about being on campus?

The tulips.

The least?

The women’s bathroom in Tribble.

What research, scholarship, or academic meetings have you had to cancel or miss?

I didn’t have any travel plans because lately I’ve been happy to be in town. But Ted Gellar-Goad and I were organizing a big Feminism and Classics conference on campus that has run aground.

Are you rescheduling any of the above, or . . . ?

I’ve tried to give up speculating about the future.

What’s been the biggest challenge about working at home?

Am I the only one who struggles mightily to write an email that used to take 5 minutes? It’s like overnight my brain lost all its muscle. Also, keeping the kitchen clean.

Picked up any new skills or hobbies, or revisited any old ones? (Zoom doesn’t count as a skill)

When I found out John Prine was on a respirator, I started playing my guitar again, which I haven’t done in over 10 years. When I was younger I was too self-conscious to sing, but now I find myself entirely uninhibited on that front. I play before bed, so it’s sort of like singing myself lullabies. My favorite thing to play is Prine’s ‘Everything is Cool.’ He could do so much with such economy.

Complete the following: “I can’t wait for summer, because then . . .”

I think this the first year in my whole life that summer holds no special allure. I’ll just reflect on good summers past and hope for good summers future.

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