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Writing the Radio WarLiterature, Politics and the BBC, 1939-1945$
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Ian Whittington

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474413596

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474413596.001.0001

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Out of the People: J. B. Priestley’s Broadbrow Radicalism

Out of the People: J. B. Priestley’s Broadbrow Radicalism

(p.30) Chapter 1 Out of the People: J. B. Priestley’s Broadbrow Radicalism
Writing the Radio War

Ian Whittington

Edinburgh University Press

While well documented in accounts of wartime broadcasting, J.B. Priestley’s status as wartime radio celebrity is too often cut off from his broader arguments about cultural democracy dating back to the 1920s. This chapter contextualizes Priestley’s famously rabble-rousing wartime broadcasts within larger debates about the relationship between popular literary forms and cultural authority, as well as placing his broadcasts in conversation with published and unpublished wartime writings. The spirit of social levelling that animates Priestley’s broadcasts in the series Postscripts and Britain Speaks resonates with his literary output both before and during the war; in particular, his broadcasts articulate, at the political level, a commitment to cultural democracy forged by Priestley’s engagements with debates about the middlebrow—or his own term, the ‘broadbrow’—in the 1920s and 1930s. The foundation of Priestley’s success as a wartime broadcaster was his ability to translate a socially democratic literary sensibility into a socially democratic political ideal through a carefully calibrated mode of address adapted to the intimate medium of radio.

Keywords:   Priestley, J.B, Middlebrow, Broadbrow, Postscripts, Accent, British identity, English identity, Blitz, Socialism

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