Pim Verhulst (University of Oxford/University of Antwerp)


Pim Verhulst is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Oxford and an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Antwerp. He is an editorial board member of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project, which was awarded the MLA Prize for a Bibliography, Archive or Digital Project in 2018. His articles have appeared in the Journal of Beckett Studies, Samuel Beckett Today / Aujourd’hui, Genetic Joyce Studies, The Harold Pinter Review, Variants and La Revue des lettres modernes, and he has contributed chapters to The New Cambridge Companion to Samuel Beckett (Cambridge UP 2015), Beckett and BBC Radio (Palgrave 2017), Beckett and Modernism (Palgrave 2019; co-edited), Beckett as World Literature (Bloomsbury 2020), Audionarratology: Lessons from Radio Drama (Ohio State UP 2021), Beckett and Technology (Edinburgh UP 2021), Beckett and Media (Manchester UP 2022), Modernist Archives: A Handbook (Bloomsbury 2023) and The Oxford Handbook of Samuel Beckett (2023). Most recently, he has co-edited Radio Art and Music (Lexington 2020), Tuning in to the Neo-Avant Garde (Manchester UP 2021) and Music, Word and Sound in Radio Drama (Brill 2023). His latest monograph, The Making of Samuel Beckett’s Radio Plays, is coming out this year with Bloomsbury and University Press Antwerp.


“Radiophonic Modernism beyond the ‘Inward Turn’: Thomas, Beckett, Churchill”

While the emergence of so-called ‘New Modernist’ studies have helped to refocus scholarly attention on the radio medium, academic enquiries have so far remained largely limited to the canonical period of the 1920s–1930s. More recent endeavours have sought to expand that scope into the 1940s–1950s, but the postwar period is still underrepresented. In this paper, I wish to argue that Modernism, nevertheless, still has much to offer – and learn – from radio beyond these conventional cut-off points. Even though the ‘inward turn’ has been somewhat marginalized as a topic of Modernism studies, notwithstanding the growing popularity and application of theoretical frameworks such as ‘4E Cognition’, it continues to be relevant for discussions of radio drama. As John Drakakis posited in 1981, ‘what the medium could do best was to represent the psychological processes of the human mind’. Due to its delayed onset, mostly because of institutional factors that discouraged experimental programmes, radiophonic modernism did not really thrive until the launch of the more experimentally-inclined BBC Third Programme in 1946, when broadcasts no longer had to cater for the majority of the British population but could also be directed at minority audiences. At the same time, this belated radiophonic strand of Modernism was significantly different from its prewar predecessor. On the basis of three case studies – Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood (1954), Samuel Beckett’s Embers (1959) and Caryl Churchill’s Identical Twins (1968) – my paper will briefly outline the trajectory of this ‘Modernism after Modernism’, to illustrate how it perpetuated the ‘inward turn’ while evolving it in the process. By proposing a continuum from ‘high’ to ‘late’ and ‘postmodernism’, also incorporating the ‘(neo)-avant-garde’, I will suggest that a content-based approach would be more productive and inclusive than a purely chronological one in order to understand Modernist fictional representations of the mind in the radio medium.