300 episodes

Leading artists, writers, thinkers discuss the ideas shaping our lives & links between past & present and new academic research.

Arts & Ideas BBC

    • Places & Travel

Leading artists, writers, thinkers discuss the ideas shaping our lives & links between past & present and new academic research.

    Queer histories

    Queer histories

    Morgan M Page, Jana Funke & Senthorum Raj look at how we apply modern LGBT+ language and identities to historical figures both real and fictional and what it means to have to "prove" your identity today in today's legal world. Shahidha Bari presents.

    Morgan M Page is a writer, performance + video artist, and trans historian whose podcast is called One From The Vaults
    Jana Funke teaches Medical Humanities at the University of Exeter
    Senthorum Raj teaches at Keele University School of Law.

    In the Free Thinking archives you can find programmes Writing Love: Jonathan Dollimore, Sappho https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08wn522
    Queer Icons: Plato's Symposium https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08xcx1f
    Censorship and Sex Naomi Wolf on John Addington Symonds and Sarah Parker on Michael Field https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00057k4
    HD and Bryher are discussed, alongside Jane Harrison and Hope Mirrlees in this episode Pioneering Women: academics and classics https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000dj0g
    Tom Smith explores the East German Military's fascination with its soldiers' sexuality https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00061m5
    Weimar and the Subversion of Cabaret Culture https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000b7r7

    Production team Caitlin Benedict & Alex Mansfield

    • 49 min
    The History of Sex

    The History of Sex

    Kate Lister started tweeting as Whores of Yore in 2015 to kick off a conversation about how we talk about sex. She has just published A Curious History of Sex which looks at everything from slang through the ages to medieval impotence tests, the relevance of oysters, bicycling and the tart card.
    Robin Mitchell's new book is called Venus Noire: Black Women and Colonial Fantasies in Nineteenth-Century France. In it she traces visual and literary representations of 3 black women: Sarah Baartmann, popularly known as the Hottentot Venus; Ourika, a young Senegalese girl and Jeanne Duval, long-time lover of the poet Charles Baudelaire.
    Fern Riddell's books include The Victorian Guide to Sex and Sex: A Brief History. She hosts the podcast series #NotWhatYouThought and is a historian on the New Generation Thinker scheme which aims to put academic research on the radio. It's a partnership between BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. You can find her talking about depictions of Eroticism in a Free Thinking conversation about The Piano and Love https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b6t06b and exploring the life of the singer and suffragette Kitty Marion in a Sunday Feature https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04n2zcp

    An exhibition called With Love opens at the National Archives in Kew displaying letters spanning 500 years, which explore intimate expressions of love. You can hear archivist Vicky Iglikowski-Broad talking on a Free Thinking programme called Being Human: Love Stories https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000b6hk
    Anne McElvoy explores who and why we love with philosopher Laura Mucha, poet and novelist Lavinia Greenlaw, novelist Elanor Dymott and poet Andrew McMillan.

    Producer: Luke Mulhall

    • 45 min
    The shadow of slavery

    The shadow of slavery

    From sugar and spice, to reparations and memorials: slavery and how we acknowledge it is debated by Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough and her panel of writers and academics: Dr Katie Donington, Dr Christienna Fryar, author Rosanna Amaka, and playwright and journalist Juliet Gilkes Romero.

    Dr Katie Donington teaches history at London South Bank University. Her research focuses on the cultural, commercial, political, and familial worlds of slave owners in Jamaica and Britain. She was an historical advisor for the BAFTA award-winning BBC2 documentary, Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners (2015), and was co-curator of Slavery, Culture and Collecting at the Museum of London Docklands.

    Dr Christienna Fryar is leading a new MA in Black British History at Goldsmiths, University of London, following her role as Lecturer in the History of Slavery and Unfree Labour at the University of Liverpool.

    Rosanna Amaka's novel is called The Book of Echoes, and is published by Doubleday.

    The Whip by Juliet Gilkes Romero runs at the RSC Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon until 21 March 2020.

    You can find the Legacies of British Slave Ownership database here https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/

    In the Free Thinking archives you can hear:
    Author Esi Edugyen in Slavery Stories https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0001bch
    Artist and film director Steve McQueen and a debate about Slavery narratives https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03pdf14

    Steve McQueen runs at Tate Modern until 11 May 2020.
    The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates is out now

    Producer: Emma Wallace

    • 44 min
    Early cinema: why are we obsessed with firsts?

    Early cinema: why are we obsessed with firsts?

    Alice Guy-Blaché the pioneering film director, a British film pioneer Robert Paul and how the Boer War led to animated film are the topics for discussion as Matthew Sweet talks to Donna Kornhaber, Ian Christie and Pamela B. Green. Ahead of this weekend's Oscars ceremony they reflect on early film innovations.

    Alice Guy or Alice Guy-Blaché (July 1, 1873 – March 24, 1968) is considered a pioneer of narrative film. A new documentary Be Natural the untold story of Alice Guy-Blaché is on general release in the UK from January 2020.

    Robert Paul (3 October 1869 – 28 March 1943) was also an early pioneer of British film. He also worked as an electrician and scientific instrument maker. Ian Christie has written a biography called Robert Paul and the Origins of British Cinema. An exhibition about Paul runs at Bradford's National Science and Media Museum until March 2020.

    Donna Kornhaber has published Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary: War and the Animated Film.

    Producer: Caitlin Benedict

    • 44 min
    Samuel Beckett & the purpose of culture

    Samuel Beckett & the purpose of culture

    Lisa Dwan tells Philip Dodd what playing Beckett taught her about herself and feminism; playwright Mark Ravenhill, arts editor Jan Dalley & sp!ked author Alexander Adams discuss the proposition that the arts are increasingly expected to be uplifting and inspirational and to confirm identities. Where do the pessimism and shattered identities of Beckett's work fit into this view of culture?

    Beckett Triple Bill is at Jermyn Street Theatre, London until 8th February starring Lisa Dwan, Niall Buggy, James Hayes and David Threlfall.
    Endgame runs at the Old Vic in London until March 28th starring Daniel Radcliffe, Alan Cummings, with Rough for the Theatre II with Jane Horrocks and Karl Johnson.

    Culture War: Art, Identity Politics and Cultural Entryism by Alexander Adams is published by Societas

    Producer: Torquil MacLeod

    • 45 min
    Mocking power past and present.

    Mocking power past and present.

    The German joker Tyll Ulenspiegel. Anne McElvoy with best selling novelist Daniel Kehlmann plus Prof Karen Leeder who has been looking at changing versions of the Dresden bombing.

    Daniel Kehlmann's new book is called Tyll, translated by Ross Benjamin. A Netflix TV series has been commissioned. His book Measuring The World about mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss and German geographer Alexander von Humboldt became the world's second best-selling novel in 2006.
    Professor Karen Leeder teaches at the University of Oxford. She has translated Porzellan: Poem vom Untergang meiner Stadt by Durs Grünbein, coming out as Durs Grünbein, Porcelain: Poem on the Downfall of my City and has been reading a new history of Dresden by Sinclair Mackay called Dresden: The Fire and the Darkness.
    You can hear her contributing to a discussion on Radio 3's The Verb about German poetry after the Fall of the Berlin Wall https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000b7x0

    You can find Anne McElvoy talking to Susan Neimann about tolerance, censorship and free speech and lessons from German history
    to novelists Florian Huber and Sophie Hardach about New angles on post war German history https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0006sjx
    to Neil McGregor about Germany https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b079mcgf

    Dr Tom Smith lectures in German at the University of St Andrews. Dr Dina Rezk lectures on Middle East History at the University of Reading. They are both New Generation Thinkers on the scheme run by the BBC in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council to work with academics to share their research on radio. You can find more examples of their work on the Free Thinking programme website.

    Producer: Paula McGinley

    • 44 min

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