‘What Muck and Filth is Normally Flowing through the Air’: Orwell’s National Poetry Service

This part of our presentation explores how the new cultural currents of radio produced in George Orwell a new kind of cultural imaginary, charting how he came to understand radio as not simply transmitting culture across time and space but as a constitutive act in itself, reimagining the relationship between the circulation of cultural forms and the communities that form around them. This paper attempts to think of Orwell as a cultural theorist of media, one whose thinking on radio focused on a series of related questions: what was radio as a form and how was its content determined? How could radio reinvigorate certain ideals, fantasies, and access to print culture? And how might the contradiction of radio’s scale, a scale that was at once as intimate as the living rooms of English family homes and as vast as the British Empire, provide fertile ground for a new kind of postwar national culture?