235 episodes

Popular culture, poetry, music and visual arts and the roles they play in our society.

In Our Time: Culture BBC

    • History
    • 4.6 • 369 Ratings

Popular culture, poetry, music and visual arts and the roles they play in our society.

    The Bacchae

    The Bacchae

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Euripides' great tragedy, which was first performed in Athens in 405 BC when the Athenians were on the point of defeat and humiliation in a long war with Sparta. The action seen or described on stage was brutal: Pentheus, king of Thebes, is torn into pieces by his mother in a Bacchic frenzy and his grandparents condemned to crawl away as snakes. All this happened because Pentheus had denied the divinity of his cousin Dionysus, known to the audience as god of wine, theatre, fertility and religious ecstasy.

    The image above is a detail of a Red-Figure Cup showing the death of Pentheus (exterior) and a Maenad (interior), painted c. 480 BC by the Douris painter. This object can be found at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

    With

    Edith Hall
    Professor of Classics at King’s College London

    Emily Wilson
    Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania

    And

    Rosie Wyles
    Lecturer in Classical History and Literature at the University of Kent

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 52 min
    The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

    The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

    In this 900th edition of the programme, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the best known and most influential of the poems of the Romantic movement. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in 1798 after discussions with his friend Wordsworth. He refined it for the rest of his life, and it came to define him, a foreshadowing of his opium-addicted, lonely wandering and deepening sense of guilt. The poem tells of a sailor compelled to tell and retell the story of a terrible voyage in his youth, this time as guests are heading to a wedding party, where he stoppeth one of three.

    The image above is from Gustave Doré's illustration of the mariner's shooting of the albatross, for an 1877 German language edition of the poem

    With

    Sir Jonathan Bate
    Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University

    Tom Mole
    Professor of English Literature and Book History at the University of Edinburgh

    And

    Rosemary Ashton
    Emeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at University College London

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 53 min
    The Rosetta Stone

    The Rosetta Stone

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most famous museum objects in the world, shown in the image above in replica, and dating from around 196 BC. It is a damaged, dark granite block on which you can faintly see three scripts engraved: Greek at the bottom, Demotic in the middle and Hieroglyphs at the top. Napoleon’s soldiers found it in a Mamluk fort at Rosetta on the Egyptian coast, and soon realised the Greek words could be used to unlock the hieroglyphs. It was another 20 years before Champollion deciphered them, becoming the first to understand the hieroglyphs since they fell out of use 1500 years before and so opening up the written culture of ancient Egypt to the modern age.

    With
    Penelope Wilson
    Associate Professor of Egyptian Archaeology at Durham University

    Campbell Price
    Curator of Egypt and Sudan at the Manchester Museum

    And

    Richard Bruce Parkinson
    Professor of Egyptology and Fellow of The Queen’s College, University of Oxford

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 47 min
    The Great Gatsby

    The Great Gatsby

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss F Scott Fitzgerald’s finest novel, published in 1925, one of the great American novels of the twentieth century. It is told by Nick Carraway, neighbour and friend of the mysteriously wealthy Jay Gatsby. In the age of jazz and prohibition, Gatsby hosts lavish parties at his opulent home across the bay from Daisy Buchanan, in the hope she’ll attend one of them and they can be reunited. They were lovers as teenagers but she had given him up for a richer man who she soon married, and Gatsby is obsessed with winning her back.

    The image above is of Robert Redford as Gatsby in a scene from the film 'The Great Gatsby', 1974.

    With

    Sarah Churchwell
    Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities at the University of London

    Philip McGowan
    Professor of American Literature at Queen’s University, Belfast

    And

    William Blazek
    Associate Professor and Reader in American Literature at Liverpool Hope University

    Produced by Simon Tillotson and Julia Johnson

    • 55 min
    Fernando Pessoa

    Fernando Pessoa

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Portuguese poet Pessoa (1888-1935) who was largely unknown in his lifetime but who, in 1994, Harold Bloom included in his list of the 26 most significant western writers since the Middle Ages. Pessoa wrote in his own name but mainly in the names of characters he created, each with a distinctive voice and biography, which he called heteronyms rather than pseudonyms, notably Ricardo Reis, Alberto Caeiro, Álvaro de Campos and one who was closer to Pessoa's own identity, Bernardo Soares. Most of Pessoa's works were unpublished at his death, discovered in a trunk; as more and more was printed and translated, his fame and status grew.

    With

    Cláudia Pazos-Alonso
    Professor of Portuguese and Gender Studies and Senior Research Fellow at Wadham College, University of Oxford

    Juliet Perkins
    Visiting Senior Research Fellow in Portuguese Studies at King’s College London

    And

    Paulo de Medeiros
    Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick

    Producer: Simon Tillotson

    • 50 min
    Albrecht Dürer

    Albrecht Dürer

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great German artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) who achieved fame throughout Europe for the power of his images. These range from his woodcut of a rhinoceros, to his watercolour of a young hare, to his drawing of praying hands and his stunning self-portraits such as that above (albeit here in a later monochrome reproduction) with his distinctive A D monogram. He was expected to follow his father and become a goldsmith, but found his own way to be a great artist, taking public commissions that built his reputation but did not pay, while creating a market for his prints, and he captured the timeless and the new in a world of great change.

    With

    Susan Foister
    Deputy Director and Curator of German Paintings at the National Gallery

    Giulia Bartrum
    Freelance art historian and Former Curator of German Prints and Drawings at the British Museum

    And

    Ulinka Rublack
    Professor of Early Modern European History and Fellow of St John’s College, University of Cambridge

    Studio production: John Goudie

    • 54 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
369 Ratings

369 Ratings

PhilipRyan ,

Makes one smart

Love getting new information. Love learning more in depth perspectives on topics and works of interest. A real gift to access such scholarship freely and on my own time.

Thank you.

hannah1237878 ,

Great but host is annoying

Awesome topic, but the host is extremely hard to understand because he mumbles, and interrupts the guests and sounds very condescending. You can tell the guests feel uncomfortable and not at ease. The host is supposed to guide the conversation, but I can feel the tension when they talk because of the hosts disposition. Stop interrupting your guests, especially the women.

Mer_Soleil_11963 ,

Wonderful Podcast, please summarize works in more detail

Insightful commentary, would appreciate a more advanced summary of the works evaluated so we aren’t scratching our heads trying to distinguish Antonio from the Merchant of Venice and Antonio in the Tempest!

Keep it up!

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