courtesy the University of Tulsa

See me after class

See Me After Class is a weekly column where a different professor reveals their variety favorites.

Dr. Michael Mosher is a professor of political science with a PhD from Harvard, coming to teach at TU after spending several years lecturing in France, among other countries. He once gave my class an article to read from an “anonymous author” later to reveal that the author was himself. He can be seen around campus attending guest lectures, often offering challenging questions.

1. What’s your favorite book? What book would you say all undergrads need to read before they graduate?

Not sure I have a favorite but I’m mighty happy to have made it through—with the help of Jeff Drouin (English)—all seven volumes of Marcel Proust’s truly great novel of early 20th century France, “In Search of Lost Time.” (What’s it about? Hint: temps perdu translates as either lost time or wasted time, which we all know about.)
Instead of recommending a single book to undergraduates, I’ll express my frustration as a teacher of the political philosophy canon—from Thucydides and Plato to Arendt and Rawls: no one hereabouts grasps the whole tradition since no one studies both ancient and modern political theory, which would be a yearlong course.
OK, here’s a single volume anyway, Hannah Arendt, “Origins of Totalitarianism,” 1951, Part II only, on the connections between empire, race and bureaucracy. Rawls, “Theory of Justice,” 1971 is an obvious rival.

2. What’s reading like for you? Is there a specific setting, mood, drink set-up?

Anywhere, any time. Put a cereal box in front of me and I will read it.

3. Is there a movie/show that you always return to?

Not really, but for let’s say pedagogical purposes, I am fond of Anthony Minghella’s “The English Patient” (1996) based on the equally fine novel by Michael Ondaatje. Riffing on the opening pages of Herodotus “Histories”—the rise of ancient Persia and the betrayal of “Candaules’ wife”—the movie plunges us into a tale of espionage and revenge in the 1930s North African desert on the eve of World War II. Another such “teaching” movie, “Queen Margot” (1994) is about the arranged marriage of Protestant and Catholic royalty during the violent 16th century French wars of religion. The novel on which it was based was written by the Haitian French author Alexandre Dumas (“Three Musketeers”) whose father was the renowned Black general Thomas-Alexandre Dumas in Napoleon’s army.

4. What was the last book/movie/show that you actually found funny?

The Korean TV series, “Crash Landing on You” (2019-2020). Rich South Korean business woman “crash lands” (literally) on a highly displeased North Korean soldier who turns out to be the son of he who advises the Great Leader in Pyongyang—a surprise the series got made at all. Romantic comedy, adventure, satire all in one.

5. What’s your favorite Tulsa restaurant? Do you have any food/restaurant routines?

Because of the pandemic, these are mostly memories. Also, it’s the people as much as the food. For instance, I am fond of Kai downtown perhaps because some of [sic] staff remember me and I remember them from the old Viet Huong. Friend Jorge Gonzalez conjures up memories of East Tulsa’s culinary delights, little bodegas that have a few chairs or a lunch counter. If (my partner) Mieko Ogawa joined us, we went Asian, for instance to China Garden. Perhaps my most frequented Tulsa restaurant, however, has been the Summit Club on top of the Bank of America Building where once a month the Tulsa Committee on Foreign Relations usually meets. The food is good, the wine flows. Students are sometimes free guests. (Alas, no wine.) The next evening might find us at the Chalkboard Restaurant where former TU president Bob Donaldson and Russ Hanks (U.S. Foreign Service ret.) would lead a foreign politics discussion, which quickly broke down into gossip and domestic politics. Tom Buoye (History) and Teresa Valero (Art)—the last surviving members, besides me, of the once secret Bow Tie Club—conjure up memories of little hole in the wall restaurant lunches around town. More recently I occasionally join physics prof Scott Holmstrom and his cross college band of jolly revelers to munch and drink wherever we can meet safely out of doors.

6. Is there a media/pop culture/entertainment side to you that students wouldn’t expect?

Yes, Maybe. Three things. Number one, on my first teaching post at the University of Washington, I moonlighted as the film reviewer for a weekly ironically named The Seattle Sun. So intense was my interest that I soon enough found myself in Tokyo on my first Fulbright. To put it delicately, my contract was not renewed.

Number two, when eventually I got back across the Pacific to TU, for a while I taught a course called “Women and Democracy on Film,” which focused on—if you can imagine it—comedies of divorce like The Philadelphia Story (1940) or the latest version of “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (2005).

Number three and most spectacularly unexpected, I enjoyed both seasons of “Emily in Paris” (2019-2020). Perhaps, you say, it’s forgivable because of the gorgeous backdrop of Paris where over the years I have wasted too much time (“temps perdu” again). My friend Peggy who also lived in Paris writes: Emily in Paris is “nothing but stereotypes.” It is “dull, predictable and not very funny.” But really it’s a fascinating and silly comedy of manners, and perhaps more to the point, a hilarious satire on Americans and French. Stereotypes, anyway, are also the stuff of legends and myths.

Post Author: Julianne Tran