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The Wireless PastAnglo-Irish Writers and the BBC, 1931-1968$
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Emily C. Bloom

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198749615

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198749615.001.0001

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Louis MacNeice in the Echo Chamber

Louis MacNeice in the Echo Chamber

(p.64) 2 Louis MacNeice in the Echo Chamber
The Wireless Past

Emily C. Bloom

Oxford University Press

Few writers have had a longer career in radio broadcasting than Louis MacNeice, who was a BBC producer and writer from 1941 until his death in 1963. MacNeice’s early wartime broadcasting led him to experiment with different uses of echoes in his poetry and radio plays, from traditional echo verses to sonic effects generated in the BBC’s echo chamber. As the first mechanical means for reproducing voice, echoes offer a prototype for radio’s dissociation of the voice from the body. In wartime, the poetic voice, distributed over the airwaves, could serve as an agent for connection between people trapped by wartime travel restrictions or, conversely, as a powerful propaganda tool perpetuating cycles of inhumanity and violence. The chapter concludes with MacNeice’s 1946 The Dark Tower and interprets this radio play as a parable for the poet’s conflicted relationship to radio broadcasting.

Keywords:   Louis MacNeice, The Dark Tower, echoes in literature, sound effects, radio drama, propaganda, Second World War

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