Arts and Culture

CU Denver English Experiences CultureKlatsch

The launch party for CU Denver English's new podcast CultureKlatsch will be held in Tivoli 640 at 4 p.m. on September 26.
If you’ve had your fill of listening to people drink wine and talk about murder or ghosts and need a literary-podcast palate cleanser, the University of Colorado Denver’s English Department will be dropping CultureKlatsch this week. 

The premiere episode of CultureKlatsch, now available on Soundcloud and Spotify, will be celebrated in a launch party on Thursday, September 26, at 4 p.m. in the Zenith Room (640) of the Tivoli Student Union. The podcast aims straight at the heart of good conversation: the sort of stuff you’d talk about with your friends over lunch or a beer. Well, your more literary friends, anyway. You know — the ones who know that The Handmaid’s Tale was a book before it was a series on Hulu.

We caught up with Nathalia Velez Ryan, host and co-creator of CultureKlatsch, to talk about all the literary goodness in store.

Westword: You’re hosting a launch party for a new podcast called CultureKlatsch, in association with the CU Denver English Department. Can you talk a little bit about the launch event itself?

Velez Ryan: Pizza first...roundtable discussion to follow. We're asking listeners to submit their questions about the episode, focused on The Handmaid's Tale, and the podcast in general. This podcast is all about engaging in discussions about contemporary media, so we want to invite the audience to engage in the discussion with us.

So you’ll be there for the discussion. Who else do you have lined up for this inaugural episode? And why Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale?

Included in the roundtable are Dr. Rodney Herring, who is featured on the episode and talks about some of the reasons why this show is so relevant today given the current political context and how the series handles social issues. We've also invited Dr. Cate Wiley due to her interest in gender, which is a central theme in the series. We will possibly have a few students who are particularly interested in these subjects join us as well.

What’s the mission of the podcast? What do you hope to bring to the local literary conversation?

The mission of the podcast is to extend our conversations about contemporary culture by sharing nuanced, perceptive commentary on the content that matters most. Our aim is to re-create those spontaneous conversations we all have in coffee shops, while delving deeply into what topical books, television and movies have to tell us about who we are and what we care most about.

There are a lot of podcasts on film and television criticism, and there is plenty of literary scholarship on contemporary media, but we want to bridge the gap between these two approaches to pop culture and media, with conversations that are engaging and that incorporate some of that research and theory from literary scholarship. I think we get a lot more out of contemporary media — or any media, really — when we have conversations with others who might see it from a different perspective or notice something that we ignored, so I wanted to create a space dedicated to these conversations.

What podcasts have influenced you in developing CultureKlatsch?

My number-one influence is The Allusionist, a podcast about language created by Helen Zaltzman. I really admire the way in which she talks about language. It's witty, insightful and accessible. I listen to and love a lot of podcasts, but I've been paying close attention to the way in which The Allusionist weaves together interviews and research.

Tell us about the name. Why CultureKlatsch?

The use of the word "klatsch," which is a social gathering centered around coffee and conversation, is meant to evoke those conversations you have with friends over coffee, where you spend hours debating the last season of Game of Thrones or whatever you're currently watching. And the idea of "culture clash" points to the intention to talk about a variety of perspectives represented in media today.

click to enlarge Nathalia Velez Ryan - FRANCISCO VELEZ
Nathalia Velez Ryan
Francisco Velez
And how did the partnership with CU Denver English come about?

I just completed my MA in English at CU Denver this past summer, and I created a podcast as part of my final portfolio project. After my portfolio exam committee listened to the podcast, Madeline Looks Back, my committee chair, Gillian Silverman, shared it with our department chair, Philip Joseph, with the idea that we could create something similar for the department. Gillian, Philip and I got together to discuss ideas, and CultureKlatsch was born!

Is Madeline Looks Back still an ongoing project as well?

It is! I’m now co-producing and hosting it with my friend Veronica Penney, who is an investigative journalist currently based in NYC. Madeline Looks Back is a podcast dedicated to the female gaze. We talk about film, television and books created by women or that offer an alternative point of view to the male gaze that has dominated the entertainment industry since its inception. Our next episode will be on the book of short stories Her Body and Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado.

What does this podcast project mean to you personally? How does this fit within your own personal goals?

I've been passionate about television and film my whole life, and this project is such a great opportunity to combine that passion with my academic background to create something that is really exciting. When I began studying film as an undergrad, I never could have imagined that I would get to work on something like this. I've fallen in love with podcasts as a medium in the past few years, but there are so many podcasts out there that it can be a little intimidating to start. I feel lucky to have this opportunity to create something I'm really proud of, and I hope it gets people excited to think deeply about the media we consume.

What future plans for the podcast do you have?  Any special guests or topics lined up?

The current plan is to release four episodes for this academic year. This is a new venture for all of us, so we get to experiment and have fun with it. I'm a huge fan of horror film, even though I'm also a huge chicken, so you can expect a horror episode coming soon. The next episode will be released in December, so stay tuned!

The CultureKlatsch podcast is now available on Soundcloud and Spotify. Celebrate the premiere at 4 p.m. Thursday, September 26, in the Zenith Room (640) of the Tivoli Student Union, on the Auraria campus.