Minds at War

Minds at War

How great artists and their work were shaped by the First World War
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Summary

The complete BBC Radio 3 series exploring how great creative minds responded to the First World War in individual works of art and scholarship

World War I saw an unprecedented loss of life in Western Europe, and destruction on a scale no one alive had ever seen. All those who experienced it were irrevocably changed, including many writers and artists upon whose oeuvre it left an indelible mark.

This captivating series examines the impact of the war on artists and thinkers through the prism of their great works. In each episode, a leading figure from the worlds of science, culture and the arts reflects on a single iconic piece, and discusses how the events of 1914-18 shaped its creation.

The 29 artworks in this collection comprise paintings, plays, books, films, sculptures and cartoons. Ian Christie appraises Eisenstein's seminal Soviet drama Battleship Potemkin; Dame Gillian Beer considers Virginia Woolf's masterpiece Mrs Dalloway; Fintan O'Toole decodes James Joyce's epic modernist novel, Ulysses; and Dr Heather Jones looks at the controversy and war connections around Marcel Duchamp's notorious 'Fountain'.

Key texts such as Sigmund Freud's twin essays Thoughts for the Time on War and Death; Rabindranath Tagore's Nobel Lectures; and Siegfried Sassoon's celebrated 1917 protest letter to The Times are analysed by Dr Michael Shapira, Santanu Das and Joanna Bourke; and a panoply of other pieces, among them Kathe Kollwitz's 'The Grieving Parents', Sean O'Casey's The Silver Tassie and Rudyard Kipling's Epitaphs are discussed by experts including Ruth Padel, Elizabeth Kuti and Janet Montefiore.

Powerful, moving, thought-provoking and often shocking, these landmark works are all, in their very different ways, a response to the horrors of World War I and its aftermath - one that vividly demonstrates the transformative effects the conflict had on the collective artistic psyche.

Production credits
Presented by Allan Little, Sara LeFanu, Martin Rowson, Prof David Edgerton, Michal Shapira, Dr Heather Jones, Ian Christie, Lyse Doucet, Santanu Das, Ruth Padel, Arthur Smith, Prof Gillian Beer, Richard Cork, Sasha Dugdale, Fintan O'Toole, Gerald Dawe, John D McHugh, Elizabeth Kuti, Tarek Osman, Joanna Bourke, Elif Shafak, Dr Imaobong Umoren, Janet Montefiore, Jane Potter and Alex Walton
Produced by Beaty Rubens, Benedict Warren, Emma Kingsley, Simon Elmes and Sarah Bowen

Episode list:
1. Paths of Glory
2. Non-Combatants and Others
3. Der Krieg
4. The Memorandum on the Neglect of Science
5. Thoughts for the Times on War and Death
6. Le Feu
7. Battleship Potemkin
8. Fighting France, from Dunkerque to Belfort
9. The Broken Wing
10. The Grieving Parents
11. Tagore's Nobel Lectures
12. Tzara's Dada Manifesto
13. Woolf's Mrs Dalloway
14. Parade
15. Akhmatova's July 1914
16. James Joyce's Ulysses
17. Elizabeth Bowen's The Last September
18. Francis Ledwidge's poem O'Connell Street
19. Father Browne's Photograph of a Wounded Soldier
20. Sean O'Casey's The Silver Tassie
21. Marcel Duchamp
22. Gertrude Bell
23. Siegfried Sassoon's Letter to The Times
24. Mata Hari's Final Performance
25. Isaac Rosenberg's Dead Man's Dump
26. WEB Dubois' Returning Soldiers
27. Rudyard Kipling's Epitaphs
28. Mary Borden's The Forbidden Zone
29. Isobel Rae

© 2022 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd (P) 2022 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd

About the authors

Fintan O'Toole

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Ruth Padel

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Heather Jones

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Elif Shafak

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David Edgerton

David Edgerton is Hans Rausing Professor of the History of Science and Technology and Professor of Modern British History at King's College London. He is the author of a sequence of ground-breaking books in 20th century British history: Science, Technology and the British Industrial 'Decline', 1870-1970; Warfare State: Britain, 1920-1970; as well as Britain's War Machine, and England and the Aeroplane, both published by Penguin. He is also the author of the iconoclastic and brilliant The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900. He is a Fellow of the British Academy.
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Sara LeFanu

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