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Writing the Radio War

Literature, Politics and the BBC, 1939-1945

Ian Whittington

Paperback (Forthcoming)
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Hardback
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Wartime British writers took to the airwaves to reshape the nation and the Empire

Writing the Radio War positions the Second World War as a critical moment in the history of cultural mediation in Britain. Through chapters focusing on the middlebrow radicalism of J.B. Priestley, ground-breaking works by Louis MacNeice and James Hanley at the BBC Features Department, frontline reporting by Denis Johnston, and the emergence of a West Indian literary identity in the broadcasts of Una Marson, Writing the Radio War explores how these writers capitalised on the particularities of the sonic medium to communicate their visions of wartime and postwar Britain and its empire. By combining literary aesthetics with the acoustics of space, accent, and dialect, writers created aural communities that at times converged, and at times contended, with official wartime versions of Britain and Britishness.

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Contents

Introduction: Projecting Britain
1. Out of the People: J.B. Priestley’s Broadbrow Radicalism
2. James Hanley and the Shape of the Wartime Features Department
3. To Build the Falling Castle: Louis MacNeice and the Drama of Form
4. Versions of Neutrality: Denis Johnston’s War Reports
5. Calling the West Indies: Una Marson’s Wireless Black Atlantic
Coda: Coronation
Bibliography.

About the Author

Ian Whittington is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Mississippi, where he researches and teaches British and Anglophone culture, with a focus on the intersection of radio and literature in the twentieth century. His work has appeared in Modernist Cultures, Modernism/modernity, Safundi, and elsewhere. Though now often to be found listening to All Things Considered and Radiolab, he cut his teeth on As It Happens and Cross Country Checkup.

Reviews

Gracefully written and unfailingly astute, attuned to the nuances of text, sound and institution, Writing the Radio War illuminates the complexly mediated construction of British nationhood during wartime, and in the process makes a compelling case for the vitality and durability of literary radio studies.

- Debra Rae Cohen, University of South Carolina

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