• Call for Submissions: Online Workshop "Radio Myles"

    Call for Submissions: Online Workshop "Radio Myles"

    Posted by Paul Fagan on 2022-12-20

Radio Myles:

Brian O’Nolan and Irish radio broadcasting

Online workshop, 1 April 2023, hosted by Birkbeck, University of London

Keynote speakers

Professor Esther Leslie, Birkbeck College, University of London

Co-author, with Sam Dolbear, of Dissonant Waves: Ernst Schoen and Experimental Sound (London: Goldsmiths, available May 2023)

Dr Zan Cammack, Utah Valley University

Author of Ireland’s Gramophones: Material culture, memory and trauma in Irish modernism (Clemson: Clemson University Press, 2021)

As we approach 2026, which marks the century of Irish radio broadcasting, it is productive to think about the importance radio holds for modern Irish writers. Brian O’Nolan published a short story about radio in Irish in 1932 and, spurred by the involvement of friends, he appeared on Saorstát radio in 1935: the beginning of his sporadic, nearly two-decade long radio career. It is unlikely that any of these on-air appearances were recorded, but their significance is clear. During the formative years of Irish broadcasting, O’Nolan and his circle participated regularly in radio talk shows like ‘Information, Please’ and ‘Everyday Eccentrics’. O’Nolan also introduced his novel At Swim-Two-Birds (1939) to the world by reading it on radio, and others performed material from An Béal Bocht (1941) and his ‘Cruiskeen Lawn’ column on  Radio Éireann throughout the 1940s.

O’Nolan’s radio career also reminds us that wireless transmission is a significant technological context for his literary work and Irish modernism generally. Beyond direct allusions to radio, reading O’Nolan’s major writings through the lens of radio and sound technologies produces new interpretations. As Paul Fagan has argued, the disembodied voice of the Good Fairy (who has no physical presence) in At Swim-Two-Birds can be read with broadcasting in mind. Similarly, it is possible to view the irreverent and arbitrary sequencing of At Swim’s fragments as informed by the experience of the radio schedule, which combined news, gramophone, live music and talk-shows with Irish-language programming and literary broadcasts.

Recent critical essays and anthologies such as Flann O’Brien, Acting Out (Cork University Press, 2022) have begun to address O’Nolan’s involvement in radio. In the wake of its publication, we appeal for further information, insights and theories about the significance of radio technology for the life and work of Flann O’Brien / Myles na gCopaleen / Brian O’Nolan and his contemporaries. Although the discovery of O’Nolan’s involvement in radio is the immediate impetus for this one-day workshop, we encourage submissions that deal with the significance of radio for other writers in his circle such as Niall Montgomery, Niall Sheridan, Francis MacManus, Maura Laverty, Donagh MacDonagh and William Saroyan, among others.

We invite short papers (15–20 minutes), work-in-progress presentations, and proposals for panel discussions that explore topics such as: 

  • Live studio broadcasting as a context for O’Nolan’s literary work
  • The interplay between radio talk-show broadcasting and Cruiskeen Lawn
  • Sound technology as a context for O’Nolan’s literary work and journalism
  • The 1932 short story ‘Ceol!’ (‘Music!’) and the Irish wireless imagination
  • Static in early radio and O’Nolan’s poetics of mishearing and interference
  • Radio Éireann as part of the Irish civil service
  • Maurice Gorham’s Forty Years of Irish Broadcasting and other radio histories
  • Irish radio broadcasting, censorship and the BBC during the Emergency
  • The social development of the radio medium and modernism
  • News, O’Nolan, Marshall McLuhan and emerging media studies
  • Radio, O’Nolan and Frankfurt School writings on radio
  • Gramophones, microphones, amplifiers and other matters

The papers given during this online workshop will form the basis of a special issue of The Parish Review: Journal of Flann O’Brien Studies dedicated to O’Nolan and broadcasting. We also ask that you consent to your paper being recorded and potentially excerpted in a special episode of the forthcoming Radio Myles podcast.

Homepage: Home (radiomyles.com)

To assist your research we have produced a bibliography of relevant books and articles for Flann O’Brien, radio and Irish modernism (click here to access it).

Please send 250-word abstracts and a short bio by 1 February to radiomyles@gmail.com.

 We will respond to abstracts to confirm acceptance by 14 February.


Conference organisers

Tobias W. Harris, Birkbeck College, University of London

Joseph LaBine, University of Ottawa

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