Leading artists, writers, thinkers discuss the ideas shaping our lives & links between past & present and new academic research.
The mermaid-like Mélusine
The legend of Mélusine emerges in French literature of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries in the texts of Jean d’Arras and Coudrette. A beautiful young woman, the progeny of the union between a king and a fairy, is condemned to spend every Saturday with her body below the waist transformed into the tail of serpent. She agrees to marry only on the condition that her husband should never seek to see her on that day every week. Shahidha Bari explores the emergence of the hybrid mermaid-woman, her historical significance and the legacy of the medieval myth of Mélusine.
Olivia Colquitt is an AHRC funded doctoral candidate at the University of Liverpool whose research focuses upon the socio-cultural significance of the late Middle English translations of the French prose romance Mélusine and its verse counterpart, Le Roman de Parthenay.
Hetta Howes is Senior Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern Literature at City, University of London and is a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker. She is the author of Transformative Waters in Medieval Literature.
Lydia Zeldenrust is an Associate Lecturer in Medieval Literature, where she currently holds a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship. She is the author of The Melusine Romance in Medieval Europe.
The Royal Opera House is staging a version of Rusalka opening February 21st 2023. This folk-tale is a Slavic version of the water sprite figure seen in the Melusine story. This production will be broadcast as an episode of Opera on 3 on Radio 3 later in spring.
Producer: Ruth Watts
Crossroads and TV soaps
Russell T Davies has written a 3 part mini-series - Nolly - about Crossroads star Noele Gordon. He joins Matthew Sweet along with screenwriter Paula Milne who wrote for Crossroads and Coronation Street and devised Angels for the BBC, and writer Gail Renard, who was working at ATV during the Crossroads years, to explore the unique and sometimes undervalued place of the soap opera in TV drama.
Nolly will begin streaming on ITVX from Thursday 2nd February. The drama will be accompanied by a documentary entitled The Real Nolly which will also be available from the same date.
Crossroads: The Noele Gordon Collection - a 96 DVD boxset - has just been released by Network.
Producer: Torquil MacLeod
The English Civil War
If the Tudors are the soap opera of English history, the restless years of the mid 17th century, often called the English Civil War, are more like a seminar in political and religious theory with an added component of armed violence. How did historians in the 20th century make sense of the period? And how are historians of today rising to the challenge?
The Restless Republic: The People’s Republic of Britain, by Anna Keay, was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2022.
Devil-Land: England Under Siege, 1588-1688, by Clare Jackson, was the winner of the 2022 Wolfson History Prize.
New Generation Thinker Jonathan Healey has just published The Blazing World: A New History of Revolutionary England.
Producer: Luke Mulhall
Holocaust Memorial Day 2023
Romani history and how mass murder is intertwined with a modern day pilgrimage site and the experiences of Portuguese Jewish communities are discussed by Matthew Sweet and his guests. Richard Zimler's talks about his latest book, The Incandescent Threads; Stuart Taberner reflects on the ways modern writers connect to the Holocaust; Victoria Biggs has been researching a pilgrimage site close to the a place of mass murder and Daniel Lee looks at the drawings left behind by the children of the Maison d'Izieu.
Richard Zimler has written twelve novels that have been translated into twenty-three languages. The Incandescent Threads is the latest in his Sephardic Cycle, a group of works that explore the lives of different branches and generations of a Portuguese-Jewish family, the Zarcos. He was a finalist for the US National Jewish Book Award.
Stuart Taberner is Professor of German Literature at the University of Leeds. He works on literary responses to the Holocaust and German Jewish identities.
Daniel Lee is a senior lecturer in modern French history at Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of The SS Officer's Armchair. He is a BBC Radio 3 Arts and Humanities Research Council New Generation Thinker. You can hear him on previous episodes discussing Writing a life and biography with Hermione Lee and Rachel Holmes https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000n6vj and looking at WWII radio propaganda and French relations https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000hwz9
Victoria Biggs is La Retraite Assistant Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Durham. She researches memory, pilgrimage and the genocide of Roma people during the Holocaust.
Producer: Ruth Watts
Stone circles, Roman Britain, a fossil crocodile and the flood described in the Book of Genesis, the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, a fake monk's manuscript: these were all studied by William Stukeley, English antiquarian, physician and clergyman (1687-1765) who pioneered research into Stonehenge and Avebury. Rana Mitter brings together a panel of archaeologists, historians and writers to look at the works of the first secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London. His guests are New Generation Thinker and Lecturer in Archaeology at University of Exeter Susan Greaney; Rosemary Hill, whose book Time's Witness: History in the Age of Romanticism is a study of 18th-century antiquarianism; Ronald Hutton, historian of religion who has written about Stukeley and the Druids; and Robert Iliffe, Professor of the History of Science at Oxford.
You can hear Susan Greaney discussing Stonehenge in a previous Free Thinking episode https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0014g7y and changing archaeological digs also heard from Alexandra Sofroniew, Damian Robinson and Raimund Karl https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03xpn5p
Ronald Hutton has taken part in discussions about witchcraft and Margaret Murray https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001271f and goddesses https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0014g7y
Producer: Luke Mulhall
Matthew Sweet marks the 30th anniversary of the death of this icon of film and fashion who was also an EGOT (winner of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award) and a noted humanitarian. Born in Belgium she supported the Resistance in World War II after moving to Holland, although her parents were Nazi sympathisers. Her films included My Fair Lady, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Roman Holiday, The Nun's Story, Funny Face and Charade. Matthew Sweet is joined by film historian Lucy Bolton, curator and fashion & film historian Keith Lodwick, film critic Phuong Le, and writer and broadcaster Samira Ahmed.
Producer: Torquil MacLeod
You might like other episodes focusing on film all available on BBC Sounds and as the Arts & Ideas podcast:
Jean-Paul Belmondo and the French New Wave https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00131ml
Bette Davis https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000y068
Asta Nielsen https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0013t59
Cary Grant https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000hn1z
Amazing, great production and ideas!
Smart and funny!
Intellectually enriching for me, and sometimes I get a great laugh right at the very end. So good.