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In Our Time: Culture

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

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

51:49 | Dec 13th, 2018

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the jewels of medieval English poetry. It was written c1400 by an unknown poet and then was left hidden in private collections until the C19th when it emerged. It tells the story of a giant green knight who di...Show More

Is Shakespeare History? The Plantagenets

51:27 | Oct 11th, 2018

In the first of two programmes marking In Our Time's 20th anniversary on 15th October, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Shakespeare's versions of history, starting with the English Plantagenets. His eight plays from Richard II to Richard III were wri...Show More

Edith Wharton

49:28 | Oct 4th, 2018

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the works of Wharton (1862-1937) such as The Age of Innocence for which she won the Pulitzer Prize and was the first woman to do so, The House of Mirth, and The Custom of the Country. Her novels explore the world of p...Show More

William Morris

53:10 | Jul 5th, 2018

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas of William Morris, known in his lifetime for his poetry and then his contribution to the Arts and Crafts movement, and increasingly for his political activism. He felt the world had given in to drudgery and u...Show More

Fanny Burney

44:25 | Apr 23rd, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the 18th-century novelist, playwright and diarist Fanny Burney, also known as Madame D'Arblay and Frances Burney. Her first novel, Evelina, was published anonymously and caused a sensation, att...Show More

Sappho

46:02 | Apr 9th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Greek poet Sappho. Born in the late seventh century BC, Sappho spent much of her life on the island of Lesbos. In antiquity she was famed as one of the greatest lyric poets, but owing to a series of accidents t...Show More

Beowulf

46:29 | Mar 5th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the epic poem Beowulf, one of the masterpieces of Anglo-Saxon literature. Composed in the early Middle Ages by an anonymous poet, the work tells the story of a Scandinavian hero whose feats include battles with the...Show More

Bruegel's The Fight Between Carnival and Lent

45:35 | Jan 15th, 2015

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Pieter Bruegel the Elder's painting of 1559, 'The Fight Between Carnival And Lent'. Created in Antwerp at a time of religious tension between Catholics and Protestants, the painting is rich in detail and seems ripe for...Show More

Kafka's The Trial

43:18 | Nov 27th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Franz Kafka's novel of power and alienation 'The Trial', in which readers follow the protagonist Joseph K into a bizarre, nightmarish world in which he stands accused of an unknown crime; courts of interrogation conven...Show More

Aesop

45:22 | Nov 20th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Aesop. According to some accounts, Aesop was a strikingly ugly slave who was dumb until granted the power of speech by the goddess Isis. In stories of his life he's often found outwitting his masters using clever wordp...Show More

Rudyard Kipling

45:44 | Oct 16th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Rudyard Kipling. Born in Bombay in 1865, Kipling has been described as the poet of Empire, celebrated for fictional works including Kim and The Jungle Book. Today his poem 'If--' remains one of...Show More

Mrs Dalloway

45:30 | Jul 3rd, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs Dalloway. First published in 1925, it charts a single day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a prosperous member of London society, as she prepares to throw a party. Writing in her diary d...Show More

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

47:07 | May 22nd, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. In 1859 the poet Edward FitzGerald published a long poem based on the verses of the 11th-century Persian scholar Omar Khayyam. Not a single copy was sold in the first few months after ...Show More

The Tale of Sinuhe

47:09 | May 1st, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss The Tale of Sinuhe, one of the most celebrated works of ancient Egyptian literature. Written around four thousand years ago, the poem narrates the story of an Egyptian official who is exiled to Syria before returni...Show More

Tristram Shandy

47:25 | Apr 24th, 2014

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Laurence Sterne's novel Tristram Shandy. Sterne's comic masterpiece is an extravagantly inventive work which was hugely popular when first published in 1759. Its often bawdy humour, and numerous digressions, are co...Show More

The Tempest

41:59 | Nov 14th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Shakespeare's play The Tempest. Written in around 1610, it is thought to be one of the playwright's final works and contains some of the most poetic and memorable passages in all his output. It was influenced by ac...Show More

Romance of the Three Kingdoms

42:07 | Jun 27th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, widely regarded as one of the greatest works of Chinese literature. Written 600 years ago, it is an historical novel that tells the story of a tumultuous period in Chinese history...Show More

Lévi-Strauss

42:03 | May 23rd, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work of the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. One of twentieth-century France's most celebrated intellectuals, Lévi-Strauss attempted to show in his work that thought processes were a feature universal to hum...Show More

Icelandic Sagas

42:04 | May 9th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Icelandic Sagas. First written down in the 13th century, the sagas tell the stories of the Norse settlers of Iceland, who began to arrive on the island in the late 9th century. They contain some of the richest ...Show More

Montaigne

42:03 | Apr 25th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Essays of Michel de Montaigne. Born near Bordeaux in 1533, Montaigne retired from a life of public service aged 38 and began to write. He called these short works 'essais', or 'attempts'; they deal with an ecle...Show More

The Amazons

42:12 | Apr 11th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Amazons, a tribe of formidable female warriors first described in Greek literature. They appear in the Homeric epics and were described by Herodotus, and featured prominently in the decoration of Greek vases an...Show More

Chekhov

42:03 | Mar 14th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Anton Chekhov. Born in 1860, Chekhov trained as a doctor and for most of his adult life divided his time between medicine and writing. Best known for plays including The Cherry Orchard and Th...Show More

Decline and Fall

41:58 | Feb 21st, 2013

David Bradshaw, John Bowen and Ann Pasternak Slater join Melvyn Bragg to discuss Evelyn Waugh's comic novel Decline and Fall. Set partly in a substandard boys' public school, the novel is a vivid, often riotous portrait of 1920s Britain. Its themes, ...Show More

Le Morte d'Arthur

42:07 | Jan 10th, 2013

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Thomas Malory's "Le Morte Darthur", the epic tale of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. Sir Thomas Malory was a knight from Warwickshire, a respectable country gentleman and MP in the 1440s who later t...Show More

Shahnameh of Ferdowsi

42:06 | Dec 13th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the epic poem the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, the 'Book of Kings', which has been at the heart of Persian culture for the past thousand years. The poem recounts a legendary history of Iran from the dawn of time to the f...Show More

The Anarchy

42:12 | Nov 1st, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss The Anarchy, the civil war that took place in mid-twelfth century England. The war began as a succession dispute between the Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I, and her cousin, Stephen of Blois. On Henry's death ...Show More

Caxton and the Printing Press

41:59 | Oct 18th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and influence of William Caxton, the merchant who brought the printing press to the British Isles. After spending several years working as a printer in Bruges, Caxton returned to London and in 1476 set up ...Show More

James Joyce's Ulysses

42:05 | Jun 14th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss James Joyce's novel Ulysses. First published ninety years ago in Paris, Joyce's masterpiece is a sprawling and startlingly original work charting a single day in the life of the Dubliner Leopold Bloom. Some early r...Show More

Voltaire's Candide

42:07 | May 3rd, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Voltaire's novel Candide. First published in 1759, the novel follows the adventures of a young man, Candide, and his mentor, the philosopher Pangloss. Candide was written in the aftermath of a major earthquake in L...Show More

Moses Mendelssohn

42:18 | Mar 22nd, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the work and influence of the eighteenth-century philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. A prominent figure at the court of Frederick the Great, Mendelssohn was one of the most significant thinkers of his age. He came from ...Show More

Benjamin Franklin

42:00 | Mar 1st, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of Benjamin Franklin. A printer, statesman, diplomat, writer and scientist, Franklin was one of the most remarkable individuals of the eighteenth century. His discoveries relating to the nature of...Show More

The Kama Sutra

42:07 | Feb 2nd, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Kama Sutra, one of the most celebrated and often misunderstood texts of Indian literature. Probably composed during the reign of the Gupta dynasty around 1800 years ago, the work is a collection of writings abo...Show More

The Safavid Dynasty

42:08 | Jan 12th, 2012

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Safavid Dynasty, rulers of the Persian empire between the 16th and 18th centuries.In 1501 Shah Ismail, a boy of fifteen, declared himself ruler of Azerbaijan. Within a year he had expanded his territory to incl...Show More

Robinson Crusoe

42:04 | Dec 22nd, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe. Published in 1719, it was an immediate success and is considered the classic adventure story. There are several incidents that may have inspired the tale, although none of them...Show More

Christina Rossetti

41:52 | Dec 1st, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the life and work of the Victorian poet Christina Rossetti. Rossetti was born into an artistic family and her siblings included Dante Gabriel, one of the leading lights of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, to whose j...Show More

Aristotle's Poetics

42:00 | Jan 27th, 2011

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Aristotle's Poetics. The Poetics is, as far as we know, the first ever work of literary theory. Written in the 4th century BC, it is the work of a scholar who was also a biologist, and treats literary works with th...Show More

The Samurai

42:05 | Dec 24th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Gregory Irvine, Nicola Liscutin and Angus Lockyer discuss the history of the Samurai and the role of their myth in Japanese national identity.The Samurai have a fearsome historical reputation as a suicidally brave caste of Jap...Show More

Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

42:19 | Nov 26th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Roy Foster, Jeri Johnson and Katherine Mullin discuss A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce's groundbreaking 1916 novel about growing up in Catholic Ireland.Many novelists choose their own young life as the subj...Show More

Elizabethan Revenge

42:17 | Jun 18th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Jonathan Bate, Julie Sanders and Janet Clare discuss Elizabethan and Jacobean revenge tragedy. From Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy to Shakespeare's Hamlet, the Elizabethan stage was awash with the bloody business of revenge....Show More

The Whale - A History

42:24 | May 21st, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests Steve Jones, Bill Amos and Eleanor Weston discuss the evolutionary history of the whale. The ancestor of all whales alive today was a small, land-based mammal with cloven hoofs, perhaps like a pig or a big mole. How this creat...Show More

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World

42:12 | Apr 9th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests David Bradshaw, Daniel Pick and Michele Barrett discuss Aldous Huxley's dystopian 1932 novel, Brave New World. In Act V Scene I of Shakespeare's The Tempest, the character Miranda declares 'O wonder! How many Godly creatures...Show More

The School of Athens

42:18 | Mar 26th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The School of Athens – the fresco painted by the Italian Renaissance painter, Raphael, for Pope Julius II’s private library in the Vatican. The fresco depicts some of the most famous philosophers of ancient times, inc...Show More

The Waste Land and Modernity

42:05 | Feb 26th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests, including Steve Connor and Lawrence Rainey, discuss TS Eliot's seminal poem The Waste Land and its ambivalence to the modern world of technology, democracy and capitalism that was being forged around it.

The Brothers Grimm

42:09 | Feb 5th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg discusses the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm with Juliette Wood, Marina Warner and Tony Phelan. The German siblings who in 1812 published a collection of fairy tales including Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and Rumpelstiltski...Show More

Swift's A Modest Proposal

42:10 | Jan 29th, 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most brilliant and shocking satires ever written in English – Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal. Masquerading as an attempt to end poverty in Ireland once and for all, a Modest Proposal is a short pamphlet ...Show More

The Baroque Movement

42:14 | Oct 23rd, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the culture of the Baroque. What do the music of Bach, the Colonnades of St Peter’s, the paintings of Caravaggio and the rebuilding of Prague have in common? The answer is the Baroque – a term used to describe a vast a...Show More

Dante's Inferno

42:04 | Jul 3rd, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Dante’s ‘Inferno’ - a medieval journey through the nine circles of Hell. “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here”. This famous phrase is written above the gate of Hell in a 14th century poem by the Italian poet Dante Alig...Show More

The Metaphysical Poets

42:12 | Jun 19th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Metaphysical poets, a diffuse group of 17th century writers including John Donne, Andrew Marvell and George Herbert. Mourning the death of a good friend in 1631, the poet Thomas Carew declared: “The Muses' garden, ...Show More

The Riddle of the Sands

42:02 | Jun 12th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discusses the prescient thriller ‘The Riddle of the Sands’ about the decline Anglo-German relations before the First World War. In 1903 an Englishman called Charles Caruthers went sailing in the North Sea and stumbled upon a G...Show More

The Library at Nineveh

42:11 | May 15th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Library at Nineveh, a treasure house of Assyrian ideas from the 7th Century BC. In 1849 a young English adventurer called Henry Layard started digging into a small hill on the banks of the River Tigris in Northern ...Show More

Yeats and Irish Politics

42:17 | Apr 17th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the poet W.B. Yeats and Irish politics. Yeats lived through a period of great change in Ireland from the collapse of the home rule bill through to the Easter Rising of 1916 and the partitioning of the country. In May 1...Show More

The Greek Myths

42:17 | Mar 13th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Greek myths from Achilles to Zeus. Are you a touch narcissistic? Do you have the body of an Adonis? Are you willing to undertake Herculean tasks or Promethean ventures? Perhaps you have an Oedipus complex? If you a...Show More

Lear

42:14 | Feb 28th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss King Lear. Around the turn of 1606, a group of London theatre-goers braved the plague to take in a new play by the well-known impresario, Mr William Shakespeare. Packed into the Globe Theatre, they were treated to a t...Show More

Rudolph II

42:16 | Jan 31st, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the coterie of brilliant thinkers gathered in 16th century Prague by the melancholic emperor Rudolph II. In 1606 the Archdukes of Vienna declared: “His majesty is interested only in wizards, alchemists, Kabbalists and...Show More

The Fisher King

42:22 | Jan 17th, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests will be delving into the world of medieval legend in pursuit of the powerful and enigmatic Fisher King. In the world of medieval romance there are many weird and wonderful creatures – there are golden dragons and green knights...Show More

Camus

42:06 | Jan 3rd, 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Algerian-French writer and Existentialist philosopher Albert Camus. Shortly after the new year of 1960, a powerful sports car crashed in the French town of Villeblevin in Burgundy, killing two of its occupants. One...Show More

The Prelude

42:03 | Nov 22nd, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the greatest long poems in the English language – The Prelude. Begun in Northern Germany during the terrible winter of 1798 by a young and dreadfully homesick William Wordsworth, The Prelude was to be his mast...Show More

Taste

42:11 | Oct 25th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 18th century obsession with taste. In the mid 18th century the social commentator, George Coleman, decried the great fashion of his time: “Taste is at present the darling idol of the polite world…The fine ladies an...Show More

The Arabian Nights

42:03 | Oct 18th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg discusses the myths, tales and legends of the Arabian Nights.Once upon a time a wealthy merchant grew hot in the sun and sat down under a tree. Having eaten a date, he threw aside the stone, and immediately there appeared before him a Ge...Show More

Madame Bovary

28:21 | Jul 12th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the literary sensation caused by Gustave Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary. In January 1857 a man called Ernest Pinard stood up in a crowded courtroom and declared, “Art that observes no rule is no longer art; it is like...Show More

Siegfried Sassoon

42:03 | Jun 7th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the war poet Siegfried Sassoon. In 1916 the Military Cross was awarded to a captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers for "conspicuous gallantry during a raid on the enemy's trenches". The citation noted that he had braved ...Show More

Victorian Pessimism

28:25 | May 10th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Victorian Pessimism. On 1 September 1851 the poet Matthew Arnold was on his honeymoon. Catching a ferry from Dover to Calais, he sat down and worked on a poem that would become emblematic of the fears and anxieties of ...Show More

Greek and Roman Love Poetry

28:10 | Apr 26th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Greek and Roman love poetry, from the Greek poet Sappho and her erotic descriptions of romance on Lesbos, to the love-hate poems of the Roman writer Catullus. The source of many of the images and metaphors of love that...Show More

Epistolary Literature

42:12 | Mar 15th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the great 18th Century fashion for epistolary literature. From its first appearance in the 17th Century with writers like Aphra Behn, epistolary fiction, fiction in the form of letters, reached its heyday in the 18th C...Show More

Heart of Darkness

42:20 | Feb 15th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg will be discussing Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Written in 1899, Heart of Darkness is a fascinating fin de siecle critique of colonialism and man's greed. Conrad draws on his own adventures for the plot. The story's main narrator i...Show More

Jorge Luis Borges

42:12 | Jan 4th, 2007

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of the Argentinian master of the short story, Jorge Luis Borges. Borges is one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, best known for his intriguing short stories that play with philosophical ide...Show More

Hell

27:56 | Dec 21st, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss hell and its representation in literature and the visual arts, through the ages from Ancient Egypt to modern Christianity. Why do certain religions have a Satan figure and others don’t? And why did hell shift from the ...Show More

Pope

41:42 | Nov 9th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of Alexander Pope. His enemies – who were numerous - described him as a hunchbacked toad, twisted in body, twisted in mind, but Alexander Pope is without doubt one of the greatest poets of the English...Show More

The Encyclopédie

42:11 | Oct 26th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the French encyclopédie, the European Enlightenment in book form. One of its editors, D’Alembert, described its mission as giving an overview of knowledge, as if gazing down on a vast labyrinth of all the branches of h...Show More

Comedy in Ancient Greek Theatre

41:32 | Jul 13th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss comedy in Ancient Greek theatre including Aristophanes and Menander. In The Birds, written by Aristophanes, two Athenians seek a Utopian refuge from the madness of city life and found a city of birds located between Ea...Show More

Pastoral Literature

42:14 | Jul 6th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss pastoral literature.Come live with me and be my love, And we will all the pleasures prove That valleys, groves, hills, and fields, Woods or steepy mountain yields.And we will sit upon the rocks, Seeing the shepherds fe...Show More

Uncle Tom's Cabin

42:12 | Jun 8th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the anti slavery novel, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'. When Abraham Lincoln met the writer Harriet Beecher Stowe after the start of the American Civil War, he reportedly said to her: 'So you're the little lady whose book started...Show More

Mathematics and Music

42:09 | May 25th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the mathematical structures that lie within the heart of music. The seventeenth century philosopher Gottfried Leibniz wrote: 'Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it i...Show More

Fairies

28:07 | May 11th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the literary and visual depiction of fairies, supernatural creatures that inhabit a half-way world between this one and the next.'They stole little Bridget for seven years long; When she came down again her friends wer...Show More

Goethe

41:56 | Apr 6th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Johann Wolfgang Goethe, the great German polymath. 'I had the great advantage of being born at a time that was ripe for earth-shaking events which continued throughout my long life, so that I witnessed the Seven Years...Show More

The Carolingian Renaissance

42:00 | Mar 30th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne and the Carolingian Renaissance. In 800 AD on Christmas Day in Rome, Pope Leo III proclaimed Charlemagne Emperor. According to the Frankish historian Einhard, Charlemagne would never ...Show More

Don Quixote

42:05 | Mar 16th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th century novel, Don Quixote. Published four hundred years ago in Madrid, the book was an immediate success and recognised as one of the classic texts of Western Literature, revered by writers s...Show More

Friendship

41:46 | Mar 2nd, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the concept of friendship. In Greek and Roman times, friendship was thought of as being an essential constituent of both a good society and a good life; a good society because it lay at the heart of participative civic...Show More

Chaucer

42:19 | Feb 9th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Geoffrey Chaucer, often called the father of English literature."In Southwark at the Tabard as I lay Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage To Canterbury with ful devout corage, At nyght was come into that hostelrye Wel nyne ...Show More

Seventeenth Century Print Culture

27:59 | Jan 26th, 2006

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss 17th century print culture."Away ungodly Vulgars, far away, Fly ye profane, that dare not view the day, Nor speak to men but shadows, nor would hear Of any news, but what seditious were, Hateful and harmful and ever to...Show More

The Oresteia

28:14 | Dec 29th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ‘Oresteia’, the seminal trilogy of tragedies by Aeschylus. The composer Richard Wagner recalled the visceral sensations of reading Aeschylus' great trilogy for the first time. "I could see the Oresteia with my mind...Show More

Johnson

28:22 | Oct 27th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Samuel Johnson, a giant of 18th century literature. “There is no arguing with Johnson, for when his pistol misses fire, he knocks you down with the butt of it." The poet Oliver Goldsmith was not alone in falling victim...Show More

Marlowe

42:10 | Jul 7th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Christopher Marlowe. In the prologue to The Jew of Malta Christopher Marlowe has Machiavel say:"I count religion but a childish toy, And hold there is no sin but ignorance. Birds of the air will tell of murders past! I...Show More

Merlin

28:20 | Jun 30th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the legendary wizard Merlin. He was sired by an incubus and born of a virgin; he was a prophet, a shape-shifter, a king-maker and a mad man of the woods. Before Gandalf there was Merlin: the power behind Arthur and a l...Show More

The Scriblerus Club

42:03 | Jun 9th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Scriblerus Club. The 18th century Club included some of the most extraordinary and vivid satirists ever to have written in the English language. We are given giants and midgets, implausible unions with Siamese twin...Show More

Abelard and Heloise

41:33 | May 5th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the story of Abelard and Heloise, a tale of literature and philosophy, theology and scandal, and above all love in the high Middle Ages. They were two of the greatest minds of their time and Abelard, a famous priest an...Show More

The Aeneid

41:50 | Apr 21st, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss 'The Aeneid'. Out of the tragedy and destruction of the Trojan wars came a man heading West, his father on his back and his small son holding his hand. This isn't Odysseus, it's Aeneas and in that vision Virgil gives a...Show More

John Ruskin

42:07 | Mar 31st, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of John Ruskin. He was the most brilliant art critic of his age, perhaps the most brilliant that Britain has ever produced, but he was much more than that. A champion of Turner and an enemy of Whistle...Show More

Angels

28:13 | Mar 24th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the heavenly host of Angels. George Bernard Shaw made the observation that "in heaven an angel is nobody in particular", but there is nothing commonplace about this description of angels from the Bible's book of Ezekie...Show More

Modernist Utopias

28:07 | Mar 11th, 2005

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the mad, bad world of modern utopias. "I want to gather together about twenty souls," wrote D H Lawrence in 1915, "and sail away from this world of war and squalor and find a little colony where there shall be no money...Show More

Faust

28:25 | Dec 23rd, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the myth of Faustus." Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships,And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss!Her lips suck forth my soul: see, where it flies!"So spoke Dr Faust...Show More

Sartre

42:05 | Oct 7th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Jean-Paul Sartre, the French novelist, playwright, and philosopher who became the king of intellectual Paris and a focus of post war politics and morals. Sartre's own life was coloured by jazz, affairs, Simone de Beau...Show More

Politeness

28:23 | Sep 30th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea of Politeness. A new idea that stalked the land at the start of the eighteenth century in Britain, Politeness soon acquired a philosophy, a literature and even a society devoted to its thrall. It may seem to r...Show More

The Odyssey

28:14 | Sep 9th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Odyssey by Homer, often claimed as the great founding work of Western Literature. It's an epic that has entertained its audience for nearly three thousand years: It has shipwrecks, Cyclops, brave heroes and seducti...Show More

The Later Romantics

42:07 | Apr 15th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the poetry, the tragedy and the idealism of the Later Romantics. There must have been something extraordinary about the early 19th century, when six of the greatest poets in the English language were all writing. Willi...Show More

The Norse Gods

42:10 | Mar 11th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Vikings’ myths. Thor’s huge hammer, the wailing Valkyrie, howling wolves and fierce elemental giants give a rowdy impression of the Norse myths. But at the centre of their cosmos stands a gnarled old Ash tree, from...Show More

The Sublime

42:13 | Feb 12th, 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss a transcendental idea that took hold on the Age of Enlightenment. When the English essayist John Hall translated the work of an obscure Roman thinker into English, he could hardly have known the ferment it would cause;...Show More

Sensation

28:15 | Nov 6th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss sensation, a Victorian literary phenomenon. The Archbishop of York fulminated against them in his sermons, they spread panic through the pages of The Times and in a famous review the Oxford Professor of Philosophy, Hen...Show More

Robin Hood

28:24 | Oct 30th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the centuries old myth of the most romantic noble outlaw. The first printed version of the Robin Hood story begins like this:“Lithe and Lysten, gentylmen/That be of frebore blodeI shall tell of a good yeman/His name wa...Show More

Bohemianism

42:15 | Oct 9th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 19th century Parisian philosophy of life lived for art. In 1848 the young Parisian Henri Murger wrote of his bohemian friends: Their daily existence is a work of genius…they know how to practise abstinence with all...Show More

Youth

41:54 | Apr 17th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the idea of youth. In 1898 Joseph Conrad wrote, “I remember my youth and the feeling that will never come back any more – the feeling that I could last for ever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men; the deceitful f...Show More

Proust

41:10 | Apr 10th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work Marcel Proust whose novel À La Recherche du Temps Perdu, or In Search of Lost Time, has been called the definitive modern novel. His stylistic innovation, sensory exploration and fascination with mem...Show More

Originality

41:04 | Mar 20th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests explore the creative force of originality. How far is it to do with origins, how far with the combination of the discoveries of others, which were themselves based on the thoughts of others, into an ever-receding and replicati...Show More

The Epic

28:12 | Feb 6th, 2003

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the epic. In his essay 'Why the novel matters', DH Lawrence argued that the novel contained all aspects of life. Perhaps better placed to make that claim is the epic. From tackling questions of identity,...Show More

Victorian Realism

28:06 | Nov 14th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Victorian realism. Henry James said “Realism is what in some shape or form we might encounter, whereas romanticism is something we will never encounter”. A reaction against Romanticism, the realist novel presented lif...Show More

Cultural Imperialism

27:53 | Jun 27th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how a dominant power can exert a cultural influence on its empire. An empire rests on many things: powerful armies, good administration and strong leadership, but perhaps its greatest weapon lies in the domain of cultu...Show More

Wagner

28:12 | Jun 20th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Richard Wagner who, perhaps more than any other composer, would seem to capture the greatest triumphs and most terrifying excesses of the German spirit. He lived as modern Germany was being born and his republicanism l...Show More

The Grand Tour

28:07 | May 30th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the origins and cultural impact of 18th century tourism. Samuel Johnson observed in 1776 that "A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man ...Show More

Tolstoy

28:14 | Apr 25th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and work of the 19th century Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy.The Russian novel has been acclaimed as one of the outstanding genres of literature alongside Greek Tragedy, Shakespeare’s Plays and Romantic Poetry. I...Show More

The Artist

28:14 | Mar 28th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the artist. The sculptors who created the statues of ancient Greece were treated with disdain by their contemporaries, who saw the menial task of chipping images out of stone as a low form drudgery. Writ...Show More

Marriage

41:50 | Mar 21st, 2002

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of marriage.‘To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.’ These marriage vows have been ...Show More

Milton

28:25 | Mar 7th, 2002

Melvyn Bragg examines the literary and political career of the poet John Milton. If it wasn't for the poet Andrew Marvell we wouldn't have his later works; Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. Milton spent the English Civil Wars as ...Show More

Yeats and Mysticism

28:16 | Jan 31st, 2002

Melvyn Bragg explores the strange and mystical world of the poet W B Yeats. Celtic folklore, the Theosophical society, the Golden Dawn group, seances and a wife who communicated with the spirit world all had a huge effect on the work of this great Ir...Show More

Sensibility

42:12 | Jan 3rd, 2002

Melvyn Bragg examines the 18th century idea of Sensibility. In Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey, the lead character Yorick comforts a young woman who has been abandoned by a little pet goat that had proved as faithless as her lover. Yorick des...Show More

Food

42:19 | Dec 27th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg explores the history of food in Modern Europe. The French philosopher of food Brillat-Savarin wrote in his Physiology of Taste, 'The pleasures of the table belong to all times and all ages, to every country and to every day; they go hand...Show More

Oscar Wilde

28:09 | Dec 6th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg examines Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetes. In February 1895 Oscar Wilde was at the height of his powers, he was known on both sides of the Atlantic, he was feted in London society and celebrated in the West End where An Ideal Husband contin...Show More

Surrealism

42:09 | Nov 15th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss surrealism. ‘Si vous aimez L’amour, vous aimerez Surrealisme!’. If you like Love, you’ll love Surrealism! Thus was the launch of the surrealist manifesto publicised in Paris in 1924. In that document the formerly Dada...Show More

Dickens

28:19 | Jul 12th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the achievements of the 19th century literary giant, Charles Dickens. George Bernard Shaw said of Little Dorrit that it was “more seditious than Das Kapital”. We can all think of classic Dickens; the gin palaces, grimy...Show More

Existentialism

27:56 | Jun 28th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss existentialism. Imagine being back inside the bustling cafes on the Left Bank of Paris in the 1930s, cigarette smoke, strong coffee and the buzz of continental voices philosophising about human responsibility and freed...Show More

The Sonnet

28:21 | Jun 21st, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Sonnet, the most enduring form in the poet’s armoury. For over five hundred years its fourteen lines have exercised poetic minds from Petrarch and Shakespeare, to Milton, Wordsworth and Heaney. It has inspired the ...Show More

Literary Modernism

42:13 | Apr 26th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss literary modernism. In James Joyce’s Ulysses he writes, “Greater love than this, he said, no man hath that a man may lay down his wife for a friend. Go thou and do likewise. Thus, or words to that effect, saith Zarathu...Show More

Shakespeare's Life

28:13 | Mar 15th, 2001

Melvyn Bragg examines what we know about the life of William Shakespeare. Charles Dickens said of the deeply enigmatic Shakespeare, “It is a great comfort…that so little is known concerning the poet. The life of William Shakespeare is a fine mystery ...Show More

Gothic

28:19 | Jan 4th, 2001

Horace Walpole and then Anne Radcliffe appeared to have triggered an anti-enlightenment movement: the Gothic that swept in Coleridge, two Shelleys, Byron, the Brontés, Walter Scott and Dickens, innumerable painters and architects, and even designed t...Show More

Psychoanalysis and Literature

42:08 | Nov 9th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss role of Freudian analysis in understanding the great works of literature. Freud said, “The poets and philosophers before me discovered the unconscious. What I discovered was the scientific method by which the unconscio...Show More

The Romantics

42:07 | Oct 12th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideals, exponents and legacy of Romanticism. In the space of a few years around the start of the nineteenth century the Romantic period gave us: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, Burns, two Shelleys, Keats, De Quincey,...Show More

London

41:34 | Sep 28th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of London. To T.S.Eliot it was the “Unreal City”, to Wordsworth “Earth has not anything to show more fair” but to Shelley, “Hell is a city much like London”. At the start of this twenty-first century the ca...Show More

Biography

28:13 | Jun 22nd, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss biography which sells more books now than ever before; last year people in this country spent 115 million pounds on 12 and a half million copies of biographies. And it’s not just in Britain that life stories are popula...Show More

Inspiration and Genius

28:18 | Jun 15th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg explores genius and inspiration. “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him”. So said Jonathon Swift, many people’s choice for a genius himself. But what do...Show More

The Renaissance

42:23 | Jun 8th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Renaissance, which was first given its role as the birth place of modern man by the nineteenth century historian Jacob Burckhardt. At the start of his immensely influential Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy...Show More

The American Ideal

42:20 | Jun 1st, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the American Ideal. The Twentieth Century has been called the American Century, and you don’t have to look very far to see the evidence of its enormous success. In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson said; “Sometimes people ...Show More

Shakespeare's Work

28:25 | May 11th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the work of William Shakespeare. He was nominated as the Man of the last Millennium and he steps into this one - on film, on stage, in academia, in schools, in private passions, probably in song and dance as well - eve...Show More

Death

28:24 | May 4th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Death, what the 16th century philosopher Frances Bacon called, ‘the least of all evils’. A subject which has provoked thousands of reflections which live on: How has the perception, dread or even desire for our own end...Show More

Englishness

41:52 | Apr 20th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the characteristics of the English identity. “An Englishman’s word is his bond”, “An Englishman’s home is his castle”. “England is a nation of shopkeepers”, but also “the most exclusive club there is”. To Cecil Rhodes...Show More

Materialism and the Consumer

28:15 | Mar 23rd, 2000

Melvyn Bragg examines materialism and the consumer. Does consumerism - as a cult, a fact, a need, a religion - threaten culture as we have known it, individuality as we desire it, life as we aspire to its best condition? Is the march of Mammon an ar...Show More

Metamorphosis

28:16 | Mar 2nd, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Roman poet Ovid and explore the theme of metamorphosis from the transformation of Narcissus to the bug of Kafka’s story, and beyond. Ovid wrote at the beginning of The Metamorphoses - in Ted Hughes’ wonderful versi...Show More

Reading

28:16 | Feb 17th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the politics and practice of reading. Gustave Flaubert’s sage advice to us was: “Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order t...Show More

Masculinity in Literature

28:11 | Jan 20th, 2000

Melvyn Bragg investigates masculinity in literature. Ernest Hemingway wrote in The Old Man and the Sea, “A man can be destroyed but not defeated”. In a time when traditional male roles have been systematically challenged it is a sentiment that seems ...Show More

Tragedy

28:07 | Dec 2nd, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the ancient genre of tragedy and examines whether we have a psychological need for it, either as catharsis or Schadenfreude. You could be forgiven for thinking that in our century, of all centuries, the ...Show More

The Novel

28:15 | Nov 11th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the development and the future of the novel. D.H. Lawrence was proud of his job, he said: “I am a man, and alive…for this reason I am a novelist. And being a novelist, I consider myself superior to the saint, the scien...Show More

Maths and Storytelling

28:07 | Sep 30th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the relationship between maths and storytelling. Is there a hidden mathematical logic in stories? The American mathematician John Allen Paulos thinks so. It’s an intriguing thought. Patterns, measurement, the logic of ...Show More

Truth, Lies and Fiction

27:55 | Jul 15th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss truth, lies and fiction. In 1995 a book appeared which brought its author great acclaim from serious critics, won prizes, stunned its readers and was thought to add significantly and profoundly to the literature of the...Show More

Capitalism

28:15 | Jun 24th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss capitalism throughout the last two centuries. In 1848 Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto described the dynamic force of capitalism as it swept through the 19th century: Constant revolutionising of production, uninter...Show More

The Monarchy

28:07 | Jun 10th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the British monarchy. In the last two hundred and fifty years, we’ve beheaded one king, exiled another, hired a distant German-speaking dynasty to fill the monarch’s role, and then mocked and ignored them, suffered a m...Show More

Memory and Culture

28:22 | May 27th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss memory. At the start of the twentieth century Freud put memory at the centre of our psychology, and as the century has worn on what a nation remembers and what it should try to forget has become one of the binding poli...Show More

Multiculturalism

28:08 | May 13th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss multiculturalism. The divisions between people provoked and exploited because of differences in religion, culture, nationality and race seem to beset the planet the more information technology promises globalisation. A...Show More

Writing and Political Oppression

28:20 | Apr 8th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg examines how two writers’ work have been shaped by political oppression and explores whether writers have a political role in modern society. The connection between writers and politics has its roots in classical times, but in the 20th c...Show More

Architecture in the 20th Century

27:59 | Mar 25th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise in so-called spectacular architecture at the end of the 20th century. Is architecture to do with what we live in, where it’s located, the buildings that accommodate at best so much more than a few private bodi...Show More

Shakespeare and Literary Criticism

27:26 | Mar 4th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the enduring popular and academic appeal of Shakespeare. Did he invent the human personality as we inhabit it now? Professor Harold Bloom claims:“Shakespeare is universal. Shakespeare is the true multicultural author....Show More

The Avant Garde's Decline and Fall in the 20th Century

28:22 | Feb 25th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg examines the social and aesthetic impact of the Avant Garde and discusses whether it has failed in making painting relevant in the 20th century.Avant-garde is in the dictionary as 'anything that is in the forefront of new developments in...Show More

Language and the Mind

27:49 | Feb 11th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of our ideas about the formation of language. The psychologist George Miller worked out that in English there are potentially a hundred million trillion sentences of twenty words in length - that’s a hundre...Show More

Modern Culture

27:56 | Jan 28th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests debate the state of Modern Culture in the 20th century. Culture used to be a word we mocked, a concept too foreign for the stout empiricists of Britain, a species of foreign flummery. Now it is all around us. We have a ministr...Show More

Feminism

28:24 | Jan 7th, 1999

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the most important events of the 20th century - the rise of Feminism and the subsequent empowerment of women. What have been the most important and lasting changes for women in the last 100 years and what is the...Show More

The American Century

27:54 | Dec 17th, 1998

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how legitimate it is to call the 20th century the American century. Just how benevolent has America’s impact on the world been? And how durable has American’s initial idealism proved to be? Have ideals of democracy and...Show More

Cultural Rights in the 20th Century

28:07 | Dec 10th, 1998

On the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations in New York, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the current status of that original declaration. Is it possible for any sort of rights to be ‘universal’?...Show More

Work in the 20th Century

27:59 | Nov 26th, 1998

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the changing nature of work practices and the work ethic as it pertains at the end of the 20th century. Has our understanding of the nature and function of work really changed so radically since the beginning of the ce...Show More

The City in the 20th Century

28:00 | Nov 12th, 1998

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the artistic, cultural and innovative developments of the city in the 20th century and is joined by two practitioners of the geographer’s art; Professor Doreen Massey, who was awarded the Vautrin Lud International Geog...Show More