Tuning in to The Modernist Podcast

Séan Richardson on a free new broadcast that sheds light on the cultural legacy of modernism

modernistpodcast-logo.jpgWhat is the Modernist Podcast?

The Modernist Podcast is a platform for ‘green’ academics to share their research with the wider community. We aim to bring critical discussion beyond the bindings of the journal and out from within the walls of the conference, into the airwaves and across digital media. We believe that this is a great way for researchers to have their voices heard early into their career, as well as disseminate their work to a broader audience, making scholarship more accessible to a diverse array of listeners. The podcast itself comes out monthly, and researchers are linked together by theme: from Queer Modernism to Modernism and Form, James Joyce to Modernism and Race.

“I am a big fan of new media, especially content driven by non-traditional platforms such as social networks. As a supplement to journals, newspapers, archives and the like, I think these platforms can encourage us to think differently about our research…”

What motivated you to start the series?

I am a big fan of new media, especially content driven by non-traditional platforms such as social networks. As a supplement to journals, newspapers, archives and the like, I think these platforms can encourage us to think differently about our research, who it is for and how we share it. I am also a big sucker for anything modernist, and was listening to an old In Our Time episode that focused on literary modernism. It felt like the episode should have been part of a series as the panelists only began to scratch the surface by the time the hour was up and the whole thing was over. So I thought: Why shouldn’t I continue this myself? And the podcast was born. The support was instantly overwhelming, and we have panels booked up well into 2018. It really does seem like the academic community want to absorb information in a new, dynamic and thought-provoking format. The podcast is also a great way to connect with people, and connect them with one another. I had a real ‘magic moment’ recently when I was at a conference, alongside a handful of people from across the country who had been on the podcast. There is no better icebreaker than saying ‘So and so is on Episode 2’, and watching a panelist from a different episode light up with the words ‘I loved what you had to say!’

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Djuna Barnes

What kind of topics do you talk about in each episode?

When I set up the podcast, I chose to base the episodes on the ‘big themes’ that everybody works around: politics, identity, war, and so on. But I slowly realised these heavyweight topics gave the podcast a strong skeleton,allowing me to chance my arm by including burgeoning fields of interest like ecocriticism and the digital humanities. In this sense, the episodes are really diverse. They take a cinema-scope look at the beginnings of modernity, the workings of high modernism, and the moments the movement began to peter out. You will find researchers discussing everything from stalwarts such as H.D. and Djuna Barnes, to genre fiction and the middlebrow. [Episode Archive]

For newcomers interested in finding out more about modernism, can you recommend a place to start?

Well, I have heard that there is this wonderful new venture called the Modernist Podcast that they might like to listen to!

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Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

Jokes aside, I think the only way in to modernism is to indulge in it. Read it, watch it, see it. Get down to your local library and finger through an old copy of To The Lighthouse or head to the Tate Modern and gawp at some Futurism. Modernism is an aesthetic, emotional and provocative movement that struggles to fit together. It is about fragment, difference, discord. The only way to measure it is to play it off against itself; to trace the threads that run through Pound and Picasso, Loy and Bell; to see how you can fit these misshapen pieces together. The three texts I recommend modernist newcomers are Mrs Dalloway, The Wasteland and Home to Harlem. On a surface level, each is written in such beautiful language that it is hard not to enjoy what the author is saying. Each is very playful in its own way too – formal experimentation, humorous asides, queer sensibilities. After you have really got a taste for someone’s work, I think the Cambridge Companion series is always an excellent way of dipping in and finding out more about an author you like. And of course, there is Michael Leveson‘s fascinating critical guidebook Modernism.

What else are you working on at the moment?

A fair bit. As well as my PhD, I am currently co-organising two conferences. The second installment of Queer Modernism(s) is set to be held at the University of Oxford on April 12th and 13th 2018, and the CfP is currently live – so you can apply! Alongside that, I am working on Transitions: Bridging the Victorian-Modernist Divide, set to be held at the University of Birmingham in early 2018 as part of the Midlands Modernist Network. Keep your eyes peeled on that one. And finally, I am in talks to edit a short poetry collection responding to the life of D.H. Lawrence, as well as putting together a small museum exhibition on E.M. Forster, though more on those to come later in the year. Lots of fantastic people are involved in all of these projects, but I do need to give special mentions to Rachel Eames, Hannah Comer, Lloyd Houston, Rio Matchett, Rhiannon Cogbill, Heather Green, Elizabeth O’Connor and Bret Johnson. These are all young researchers who the academy should have their eyes on.

About the Podcast

The Modernist Podcast is a monthly discussion of modernist literature, art and culture, founded and hosted by Séan Richardson. More information can be found at modernistpodcast.org

About the Presenter

Séan Richardson is a first year PhD student at Nottingham Trent, working on the sexual geographies of the modernist era. He hosts the modernist podcast and spends far too much time watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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  1. Sounds fascinating! Thanks for flagging this up! 🙂

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