17 January 2008

On feeling at home

"In Our Time" is one of the most improbable glorious media successes imaginable. Melvyn Bragg discusses one unashamedly intellectual topic with three academics for three-quarters of an hour. Yet more evidence that Radio 4 is the Enlightenment.

Just look at the topics for this series, in reverse order;
It has a mission to bridge Snow's two cultures, but blow that! It simply and unashamedly delights in ideas. I would gladly pay my licence fee for this programme alone. Lord Bragg is (in the best senses only) the Lord Reith de nos jours.

But today's programme topped the lot! As an undergraduate at Sussex in the 60s, I effectively took a term out from the formal course requirements (I went through the motions, as most undergraduates do nowadays [sorry!], but my heart and most of my head was elsewhere) to pursue the grail myth; Eliot was my starting point, through Weston to Frazer and R S Loomis to Malory and de Troyes via .... It was an exhilarating quest; I pestered librarians in the basement of Falmer House before the proper library was completed, to drag obscure stuff out of the stacks for me, and went back day after day in the hope that they might have arrived...

The story has fascinated me ever since but even so, today's discussion--if it did not actually tell me anything new--put a lot of material into perspective. The notion of the grail as an object to be possessed even after the loss of the holy land in the crusades... How the first world war provided a lens to view the Waste Land... Wow!

Next week plate tectonics...

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