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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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To Build the Falling Castle: Louis MacNeice and the Drama of Form

To Build the Falling Castle: Louis MacNeice and the Drama of Form

(p.83) Chapter 3 To Build the Falling Castle: Louis MacNeice and the Drama of Form
Writing the Radio War

Ian Whittington

Edinburgh University Press

Collectively, Louis MacNeice’s output of radio dramas and features represents one of the greatest achievements of wartime radio broadcasting in Britain. For MacNeice, already interested in poetic form, radio provided a new medium with its own technical limitations, generic possibilities, and productive constraints. From the early features in the Stones Cry Out series (1941), through his first verse epic, Alexander Nevsky (1941), to the spectacular triumph Christopher Columbus (1942), MacNeice built ever more complex soundscapes in which a listening audience might immerse themselves, if only to rediscover a sense of collective purpose. Within MacNeice’s radio dramas, human examples of effective auditory navigation—in the form of blind characters and other attentive listeners—populate sonic environments structured by distinctions of proximity and distance, the present and the past, and safety and danger. MacNeice’s broadcasts therefore achieve propagandistic goals via modernist means, creating critical listeners as a means of forging good citizens; in the process, the broadcasts demonstrate that Priestley’s demotic approach was not the only means of uniting the radio public around a common goal.

Keywords:   MacNeice, Louis, Radio Drama, Features, Christopher Columbus, Alexander Nevsky, The Stones Cry Out, Architecture, Blitz, Westminster Abbey

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