As The Story Was Told (1996), a two-part documentary featuring interviews with authorised biographer James Knowlson, publishers John Calder and Barney Rosset, actress Billie Whitelaw, nephew Edward Beckett, and others. The documentary is notable, in part, for its glimpses of Beckett’s home in Paris and his country retreat in Ussy-sur-Marne.

Watching The Cold War, a 24-episode documentary series produced for CNN back in 1998. Narration by Kenneth Branagh. Fascinating.

Hannah Fitzpatrick and Anindya Raychaudhuri discuss a topical podcast that covers politics, power, and pop culture

What is the State of the Theory podcast?

Hannah Fitzpatrick: Like most podcasts, State of the Theory is a manifestation of our narcissism. It began as an optimistic hope (albeit with few expectations) that our casual conversations might be of interest to, and spark debate among, our friends and colleagues. We used to commute together a few times a week, and the car became a sort of impromptu seminar venue, but without the audience. After the last research auditing exercise undertaken by the UK government in 2014, Impact and Public Engagement became quantifiable entities that might be used for or against us later in our careers, so the podcast is a sort of compromise, a way for us to demonstrate that our thoughts have value beyond the walls of the Vauxhall Astra, while still doing it on our own terms. A way of selling out without entirely selling out, if you will. Also, we missed the long drive, where all we could do was chat, and we could have these long, multi-stage conversations over the course of a week or two, so the podcast was a way for us to recreate that time. (more…)

On pursuing a vocation in art, writing, and simple living

The reasons for my decision

Back in June, I attended a cardiology appointment that had a profound impact on me. My meeting with the cardiologist was routine and I did not receive any alarming news, but I became aware of the fragility of my own body in a new way. As an infant I was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition, and my life had been saved by the UK’s National Health Service and the surgeons at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. I have always felt grateful for the life-saving help that I received, and could talk superficially about my condition with friends and loved ones, but now I see that I was also prone to a form of denial. Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood I placed my heart condition to one side as I tried to establish an identity for myself. My routine appointments continued from year to year, but in my conscious mind and my behaviour I aimed to suppress what they represented with denial and distraction. This year marks the first time that I am fully and consciously aware that I have a congenital heart condition. And while there is no reason why I cannot live a full and happy life, I am now awake to the fact that I nearly didn’t survive infancy.


Peter J. Beck discusses the history of H.G. Wells’ iconic sci-fi novel, and how it continues to resonate in popular culture

Peter J. Beck, The War of the Worlds: From H. G. Wells to Orson Welles, Jeff Wayne, Steven Spielberg & Beyond (Bloomsbury, 2016)
Peter J. Beck, The War of the Worlds: From H. G. Wells to Orson Welles, Jeff Wayne, Steven Spielberg & Beyond (Bloomsbury, 2016)

What inspired you to write the book?

I have lived in Woking since 1971. Over time I became increasingly aware of the town’s links with H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. Woking is the place where he researched, wrote and set the book. My house is located within one mile or so of both Horsell Common, where Wells’ Martians landed, and 141 Maybury Road, the house where Wells wrote the story.  Apart from walking the trail of the story and reading his books, during the late 1980s I began researching Wells’ correspondence, most notably that held by archives at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and Yale University Library. This research was basically undertaken out of personal interest rather than with a view to publication, since as a professor of history my principal areas of research and publication were the history of British foreign policy and international organisation. RAE pressures – my membership of the RAE History panel for the 1992 and 1996 RAEs made me acutely aware of these – left no time for other research topics. However, I taught a course at Kingston University on ‘Literature, Art and War 1860-1920’, and introduced The War of the Worlds as one of the war scare set texts alongside The Battle of Dorking. I began to write up my research about Wells’ The War of the Worlds only in 2012 after finishing two contracted books: Using history, making British policy: the Treasury and the Foreign Office, 1950-76 (2006) and Presenting History: Past and Present (2012). A further source of inspiration was my membership of a Woking Task Group set up in 2013 to organise a programme of events celebrating Wells’ links with Woking in 2016, a year marking the 150th anniversary of his birth and the 70th anniversary of his death. I represented the H.G. Wells Society on this task group. (more…)

Recent interview selected as an Editors’ Pick

Screenshot of

discover-badge-circle-rhystranter-comI am delighted to announce that was recently selected as an Editors’ Pick on’s Discover. The site aims to curate ‘the best content on WordPress, collected for you by humans who love to read’.

The selected piece was a recent interview with Carolyn Cocca for her new book, Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation (Bloomsbury, 2016). Carolyn Cocca discussed how women superheroes are changing the we way think about contemporary femininity. You can read the full interview here.

A big thank you to the editorial team of WordPress Discover for featuring the site.

Find out more about WordPress Discover.

Will Brooker reflects on our continuing fascination with Gotham City’s caped crusader

Will Brooker, Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon
Will Brooker, Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon

What inspired you to write Batman Unmasked?

Batman Unmasked was originally my PhD thesis, One Life, Many Faces, and I began it over 20 years ago, so you can understand it is a fairly distant memory. My PhD plans began around 1994 as a study of masculinity in the mainstream cinema of the 1990s, and Batman was a small aspect of one proposed chapter, about the Gothic Masculine (Tim Burton’s films). I realised gradually that the idea of writing about Batman was what I was really looking forward to – at the time, the very concept was audacious in academic work – and the project evolved until that small part of one chapter expanded into the entire PhD. Of course, Batman is an interesting topic per se, but I felt personally invested in the character, and wanted to write about something I was really enthusiastic about, as a fan. That enthusiasm was important, as by the end of the three years full time of my doctorate, I hated Batman, PhDs and academia in general. (Those feelings passed). (more…)

James Peacock discusses how cultural and literary criticism can help us to unpack Brooklyn’s complex cultural history

How did you come to write Brooklyn Fictions?

James Peacock, Brooklyn Fictions: The Contemporary Urban Community in a Global Age (Bloomsbury, 2016).
James Peacock, Brooklyn Fictions: The Contemporary Urban Community in a Global Age (Bloomsbury, 2016).

There are two strands to this answer – three, if I’m being really honest. First, it evolved quite organically from my previous research on Paul Auster and Jonathan Lethem – both contemporary writers strongly associated with the borough. Having written articles and monographs on them which explored, at least in part, their representations of Brooklyn neighbourhoods, it made sense to embark on a multi-author project which dug more deeply into these representations. Looking at my research as a whole, I realise that the importance of place and the relationship between the individual and the community have been connecting themes. The second inspiration for the project was more personal. While I was studying for my Ph.D., my wife and I lived in Leith. Once a separate town, now part of Edinburgh, Leith retains a fiercely independent streak and a sense of identity in opposition to the fancier city up the road. Even though it has been undergoing gentrification for many years, and despite the fact that it has Michelin-starred restaurants and some very expensive new apartments, Leith still values a down-home, honest authenticity many of its residents feel the centre does not have. When I began to understand that the relationship between Brooklyn and Manhattan was very similar, I saw some wider potential in writing about these ideological constructions, with Brooklyn as a suitable case study. Thirdly – and here’s the confessional moment – I visited New York City for the first time in 2005 and (though it’s not very original to say this) fell in love with it. I cannot deny that a research project which might take me there a few times was an attractive prospect. (more…)