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Immaterial Culture

Literature, Drama and the American Radio Play, 1929–1954

Series:

Harry Heuser

Immaterial Culture engages with texts that are now largely unread and dismissed as trivial or dubious: the vast body of plays – thrillers, narrative poetry, comedy sketches, documentaries and adaptations of literature and drama – that aired on American network radio during the medium’s so-called golden age.
For a quarter century, from the stock market crash of 1929 to the introduction of the TV dinner in 1954, radio plays enjoyed an exposure unrivalled by stage, film, television and print media. As well as entertaining audiences numbering in the tens of millions for a single broadcast, these scripted performances – many of which were penned by noted novelists, poets and dramatists – played important and often conflicting roles in advertising, government propaganda and education.
Reading these fugitive and often self-conscious texts in the context in which they were created and presented, the author considers what their neglect might tell us about ourselves, our visual bias and our attitudes toward commercial art and propaganda. The study’s ample scope, its interdisciplinary approach and its insistence on the primacy of the texts under discussion serve to regenerate the discourse about cultural products that challenge the way we classify art and marginalise the unclassifiable.

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1940’s Radio Hour (stage play) 319–20 accents BBC English 239 British 289–90 Brooklyn 272 foreignness 181–2, 199, 292 German 181–2, 199, 203 Japanese 200–1 as marker of America’s cultural diver- sity 148, 284 see also dialects acting (radio) 17, 25–6, 27, 38, 41, 114, 236, 316 Adams, Franklin P. 76, 94 Adams, Maude 26 adaptations attitudes toward 37, 47–8, 72, 76, 88 of motion pictures 42 of non-fiction 156, 157, 159, 252 of novellas and short stories 68, 177, 242 of novels 67–76, 78, 80–1, 82, 86, 88–9, 90, 91, 135, 222, 256, 319 of poetry and verse drama 112 of radio plays for other media 233, 248, 265, 280n. 56 of stage plays 20, 25, 32, 33, 36, 37, 38–9, 44, 47–50, 216n. 21, 308 Adorno, Theodor 268–9 Adventure in Reading (radio series) 82 advertising critique of 94, 97–8, 309–11, 319 defense of 56 fictionalized in radio plays 198–9 language 269–70, 277 of the press on radio 61, 62–3 of radio in the press 3, 15, 61 on radio programs (commercials) 32, 33–5, 40, 42, 48, 69 tie-ins 59 wartime 134, 156, 187 advertising agencies Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn 33, 152, 299 J. Walter Thompson 26, 41 Lord & Thomas 310 N. W. Ayer & Son 56, 139 African-Americans see race Agatha Christie’s Poirot (radio series) 82 Albee, George Sumner 152 “The Next Voice You Hear” (short story) 130 Alias John Freedom...

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