I’m just going to jump right in and get us started with two interpretive questions:
1. What, precisely, is the “temporary matter” of the first story? 2. What does a pumpkin have to do with the partition of India?
Obviously, the title of “A Temporary Matter” refers to the brief electrical outages that occur each evening in the story, but by the end we are so far from minor inconveniences and so deep into the intimate pains of living a human life that this is clearly no longer the answer. And, of course, the pumpkin is simply what Jack-o’-Lanterns are made out of, and the Bangladesh Liberation War simply takes place in the autumn of 1971, so the presence of Halloween could be merely an accident of history.
These two questions, only seemingly simple, are going to run us over a very wide gamut of world history, geography, and culture. We could talk about many, many, many things just in these two stories, but I would like to focus your attention on a few key themes that are going to weave together this collection of short stories into a whole that will, by the end, emerge as something greater than it’s parts (though the parts are exquisite): marriage, food, genealogy, and partition. In piecing this list together, I excluded many things. For instance, I said marriage instead of love. Why do you think I made that choice? Why food, instead of music, or culture, or language? Genealogy I’ve used to stand in for that whole complex of our relations to our own past, “our native land, native language, and the laws that govern us” (#). And though the Partition does not appear in every story, a partition occurs throughout (see the end of “A Temporary Matter”).
Out of the dimness opposite equals advance . . . . Always substance and increase, always sex, Always a knit of identity . . . . always distinction . . . always a breed of life. 
In today’s lecture, I am going to address two seemingly simple questions:
1. How does Whitman’s poetry work in “Song of Myself”?
2. What does Whitman’s poetry mean in “Song of Myself”?
I believe that the answer to the first question, how does it work, is crucial to understanding the answer to the second question, what does it mean, perhaps as much as for any poet before or after Whitman. As we have progressed more than halfway through “Song of Myself”, we have all noticed that Whitman does not shy away from incorporating big questions, about good and evil, life and death, sexual ecstasy and brutal violence.
I. A merchant in Venice, but not of it, in which it is argued that to understand Locke’s system, or indeed any society, we must understand (i) what it excludes, and (ii) how that exclusion functions, by way of the social exclusions in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice
II. The Other Side of Reason, in which a list of Locke’s exclusions is presented with reference to the text, then reduced to an argument apropos which exclusion is more fundamental, that of the slave or that of the madman
What is crucial is less why someone believes than what that belief allows them to do
Ask a nonbeliever to describe the QAnon conspiracy theory, and they almost immediately reach for metaphors of madness: batshit insane, fucking crazy, bonkers, etc. Bracketing the real question of stigma attached to these metaphors, the point the speakers are making is the great gap in perception between those who believe in the conspiracy and those who don’t. That which is hard to imagine, outside the bounds of normal mental contexts, is insane.
For instance, it makes no sense that this very American conspiracy theory is going global:
The resilience of QAnon narratives after the election shows just how far and deep this made-in-America conspiracy has spread — and hints at its staying power around the globe.
As I was doing get-out-the-vote work for a political campaign here in Houston, I was thinking about this study I read about recently that looked at the “Wild West mentality”:
The researchers found that living at both a higher altitude and an elevation relative to the surrounding region—indicating “hilliness”—is associated with a distinct blend of personality traits that fits with “frontier settlement theory”.
“The harsh and remote environment of mountainous frontier regions historically attracted nonconformist settlers strongly motivated by a sense of freedom,” said researcher Friedrich Götz, from Cambridge’s Department of Psychology.
Now, let’s forgive and forget what the “wild west” even means for a minute. What I find fascinating about this study is the way that what was once a purely qualitative investigation (from de Tocqueville’s America to Debord’s urban dérive, for instance) opens out into impersonal data points. That a psychological profile can be quantified on a massive and fine-grained scale is … I don’t know, astonishing? Vertiginous?
It certainly induces a sense of vertigo in me. And that’s despite my skepticism of both psychological profiling and big data, each, in general, and the categories specifically deployed here.
In any case, geography as psychological ecology, nourishing mental niches that persist of over transgenerational human time. Wild indeed.