Modernism and Radio

Organiser: Birgit Van Puymbroeck (Vrije Universiteit Brussel); Chair: Bart Van den Bossche (KU Leuven)

This panel is positioned at the intersection of current debates about modernism, memory, and radio. Memory has long played an important role in modernist studies. One need only think of the many analyses of Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu or Woolf’s To the Lighthouse as a fictional account of her childhood memories. More recently, scholarly debate has focused on the memory of modernism, with the expansion of the modernist canon and new ways of thinking through the legacies of modernism (Mao & Walkowitz, 2008; Kalliney, 2015; Saint-Amour, 2018; James and Seshagiri, 2018). This panel aims to revisit the relation between modernism and memory from the perspective of radio, that most ephemeral medium. Our knowledge of early radio heavily relies on memory (the memory of authors, listeners, producers, etc., writing down their radio experiences in autobiographies, memoirs, and newspaper columns). Early-and mid-twentieth-century radio productions often play with memory in their focus on the workings of the mind (Hendy, 2013; Verma, 2012). Moreover, contemporary radio drama frequently takes the history of modernism as its subject, by retelling the lives of key modernist figures or reframing early recordings.The three papers that make up this panel examine the relation between modernism, memory, and radio from different angles.


Edward Allen (University of Cambridge, University of Padua) – Remembering Memories: Stuart Woolf’s Primo Levi in 1961

Pim Verhulst (University of Oxford, University of Antwerp) – Radiophonic Modernism beyond the ‘Inward Turn’: Thomas, Beckett, Churchill

Valentina Mele (University of Leeds) – «The Poet is a Radio»: Medieval Culture and ‘Dictated Poetry’ in the Work of Jack Spicer

Birgit Van Puymbroeck (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) – Modernism’s Afterlives on Radio: Katie Hims’s Luxembourg Gardens and Mary Cooper’s Edith Sitwell in Scarborough