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W. B. Yeats and Broadcasting, 1924–1965

Autor: Emilie Morin
Revista: Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television Nº 35 (1)
Link: Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television Nº 35 (1)

William Butler Yeats is recognised as a pioneer in the history of radio broadcasting in the United Kingdom; the talks and poetry readings he conceived for the British Broadcasting Corporation between 1931 and 1938 display his genuine interest in writing for, and speaking to the wireless, and the published scripts of his broadcasts have received sustained critical attention in their own right.

However, if Yeats’s collaboration with the BBC during the 1930s has been carefully explored, the periods that precede and follow the creation of his BBC broadcasts have remained shrouded in mystery. In this article, I provide a new chronology of radiophonic adaptations and broadcasts of Yeats’s writings that complements extant knowledge of this facet of broadcasting history, and I argue that Yeats’s personal involvement with radio should be envisaged in a wider context.

Indeed, the artistic leeway that Yeats was granted when conceiving his BBC programmes is not merely related to his status as Nobel Prize winner, but is inscribed in an evanescent and previously undocumented history of broadcasting, which saw the rise of Yeats’s poetry and plays to prominence on the British and Irish airwaves from the early days of broadcasting in the 1920s.