Honoring Hilmes – Antenna http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Missing from History: Langston Hughes’ The Man Who Went To War http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/06/12/missing-from-history-langston-hughes-the-man-who-went-to-war-2/ Fri, 12 Jun 2015 13:00:07 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=26958 Front row standing (L-R): Hall Johnson, Alan Lomax, D. G. Bridson, Canada Lee, Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters.

Front row standing (L-R): Hall Johnson, Alan Lomax, D. G. Bridson, Canada Lee, Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters.

Post by Michele Hilmes, University of Wisconsin-Madison

I have been so overwhelmed, and humbled, by the recent sequence of posts here on Antenna, sparked by the wonderful podcast assembled by Andrew Bottomley, Jeremy Morris, and Christopher Cwynar, that I wanted first of all to thank all of you who cast so many kind words in my direction, and second to say something about what I’ll be getting up to in retirement.

It was especially gratifying to hear so many of you acknowledge the importance of an historical perspective on the present, to enable us to see it more clearly. This works the other way too: to paraphrase Foucault, the perspective of the present continuously helps us to see things that were obscured in the past, such as the agency of whole classes of people – women, minorities, those outside the mainstream’s scope – as well as the significance of work done long ago and forgotten but now finding new relevance as we push the borders of our field ever wider.

One example of this in the field of sound is the first ever collection of critical essays on the creative work of Norman Corwin forthcoming from California in the spring, edited by Neil Verma with contributions from many of you reading this. It took a new generation of media scholarship, combined with the new interest in sound sparked by the digital present, to enable us once again to perceive the value of Corwin’s innovations, so long unheard and unappreciated.

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

Another example involves one of those amazingly serendipitous archival stories we sometimes get to tell. About five years ago, I was at the Library of Congress following up on research for Network Nations. One thing I was looking for was any trace of some of the radio features produced in the US during the WWII years by D. G. Bridson, an important innovator of the radio documentary feature form at the BBC. In his biography, Prospero and Ariel, Bridson describes his experiences working with people like Alan Lomax and Langston Hughes, the premier poet of the Harlem Renaissance, whom Bridson commissioned in late 1943 to write an original “ballad opera” in support of the war effort.[1]

Hughes’ script of The Man Who Went To War was produced in New York in February 1944, featuring some of the most significant African-American performers of the era. Paul Robeson introduced the show and provided the “Voice of God” at the end; Josh White performed the sung narration, with Ethel Waters and Canada Lee playing the central roles of Sally and Johnny. Alan Lomax arranged the music, which was sung by the Hall Johnson Choir, accompanied by noted bluesmen Sonny Terry playing harmonica and Brownie McGhee on guitar.

Hughes, whose struggle to get his scripts on the air in the US had led to frustration and disappointment, wrote to Erik Barnouw in March 1945:

“Probably my best script is THE MAN WHO WENT TO WAR as performed on BBC for England and the colonies last spring…Considering the seriousness of the race problem in our country, I do not feel that radio is serving the public interest in that regard very well… Personally, I DO NOT LIKE RADIO, and I feel that it is almost as far from being a free medium of expression for Negro writers as Hitler’s airlanes are for the Jews.”[2]

Hughes’ answer to US radio’s silence on race was to construct a musical drama that simply refuses to acknowledge that African-American and British identity might not be thoroughly elidable, or that the language of blues and gospel music might not speak for “all freedom-loving people,” without distinction. More musical poetry than drama, Hughes and Bridson built on the “radio ballad” or “ballad opera” form pioneered by Alan Lomax in the US and later developed by Charles Parker in Britain.

Listen here to the opening sequence of The Man Who Went to War:

Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson

The show was never aired in the US, due to rights issues, but was recorded and broadcast over the BBC in the spring of 1944, with highly favorable reception. But here, according to Bridson, its story ends; the last remaining recording – made on glass discs – was shattered soon after. And thus faded The Man Who Went To War, one of the very few of Hughes’ scripts for radio actually broadcast, unheard by the American public and inaccessible to scholars.

But not so! As I found out that day in 2010, the Library of Congress amazingly preserved a recorded copy – not the best sound quality in places, faded and scratched, but bringing to human ears for the first time in more than six decades voices and performances unique to the historical radio soundscape. It has now been digitized and can be found in the LOC collection, though not alas online. I look forward not only to digging into the history and reception of this unique work, but to making it the centerpiece of a history of the radio feature in the United States – the creative tradition that underlies current innovative soundwork like This American Life and Serial but that, like Corwin and so much else in American radio, remains missing from history – until media scholars like us go looking.

Thanks to the field we have together built up, and thanks too to some important historical projects you’ve read about here – the Radio Preservation Task Force, the Archive of American Public Broadcasting, and others in progress – much more of our missing media history promises to be revealed, after decades of silence.   It is my hope, and a goal in retirement, that what I have elsewhere referred to as the “lost critical history of radio”[3] – and by that I mean the critical heritage of American soundwork, in particular – can be revived and made meaningful to those of us who create, listen to, and reflect on soundwork today.


[1] My grateful thanks to Lisa Hollenbach for sharing with me her research in Langston Hughes’ papers in Yale’s Beinecke Collection.

[2] Letter from Langston Hughes to Erik Barnouw, 27 March 1945. B1 F10, Erik Barnouw papers, Columbia University.

[3] Michele Hilmes, “Radio’s Lost Critical History,” Australian Journalism Review Special Edition “Radio Reinvented: the enduring appeal of audio in the digital age,” 36:2, Spring 2015.


Ghost Stories and Dirty Optics: Notes on the Hilmesian Closeup http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/06/10/ghost-stories-and-dirty-optics-notes-on-the-hilmesian-closeup/ Wed, 10 Jun 2015 12:30:13 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=26966 Brox Sisters Listening In. Courtesy: Library of Congress Online Prints & Photographs.

Brox Sisters Listening In. Courtesy: Library of Congress Online Prints & Photographs.

Post by Shawn VanCour, New York University

This is the twelfth post in our “Honoring Hilmes” series, celebrating the career and legacy of Michele Hilmes on the occasion of her retirement. 

This series has offered much well-deserved praise for Michele Hilmes as a scholar, professor, mentor, and colleague, detailing her profound impact on her department, students, and field. I heartily concur with these sentiments but for the present post shift from a concern with “Hilmes” the person to what we might call the “Hilmesian” – by which I mean a certain set of observable tendencies in historiographical technique. I use the word “technique” here in the sense of a regularized set of formal devices deployed toward consistent ends within and across a body of work. What are the defining techniques of Hilmesian historiography, and to what end do those work?

In an effort to open this line of inquiry, I will focus on the technique of the “historical closeup.” For sake of space, my examples are limited mainly to the pages of Radio Voices, although the technique is by no means limited to this work (nor to the work of Hilmes alone). The questions I ask here are twofold: 1) how does the historical closeup work in Hilmesian historiography, and 2) what does it do?

Well-worn cover of Radio Voices. Courtesy: Kathleen Battles.

Well-worn cover of Radio Voices. Courtesy: Kathleen Battles.

1. Ghost Stories (History as Spectrology)

One of the most telling passages of Radio Voices comes at the end:

Historians must continue to investigate the boundaries between what is known and what has been excluded from knowledge, what is heard speaking loudly in our largest public forums and what remains pushed to the sidelines, silenced or muffled in our historical accounts – and must continue to analyze the purposes and effects of such selections [. . . .] History is always ideological . . . . written by historians whose training, purposes, and basic assumptions and selections intertwine with present-day needs and preoccupations, and it finds a readership based on similar affinities (RV 288).

We are to listen, then, to the margins of history, to the voices silenced in existing accounts. Elsewhere in Radio Voices, this is cast as a strategy of Foucaultian reversal, or looking past the “smooth face of consensus” in the dominant discourse to recognize “the ruptured and seamed lines of tension and resistance that consensus seeks to conceal” (RV xvii). Equally important, we are asked to question the ideological underpinnings of our own, revisionist historiography: under what conditions may alternative histories be written, what forms may they take, and what modes of solidarity can they foster?

Radio Ghost. Painting by Rovina Cai.

Radio Ghost. Painting by RovinaCai (2014).

While written under the sign of Foucault, there also lies within Hilmesian historiography a trace of a Derridean spectrology – an asking after what haunts our speech and clings to it as its very condition of possibility. What we are listening for here is not the voices of those who speak from a space “outside” the dominant discourse, but instead those who exist as absent presences within it, whose “silencing” or “muffling”  is the condition for the dominant speech to itself be heard clearly. We listen for the murmurs of ghosts.

The goal here is not simply to restore these spectral voices to a past from which history has erased them, but rather to help their speech find a place within the dominant discourse of the present, creating conditions in which they may both speak and be heard. In Derridean terms, “[the scholar] should learn to live by learning . . . how to talk with [the ghosts], how to let them speak or how to give them back speech, even if it is in oneself . . . in the other in oneself: they are always there, specters . . . even if they are no longer, even if they are not yet” (Specters 221). This closing element of futurority (the “not yet”) is critical: the ghosts of history cannot, by nature, fully arrive within the present – they murmur, indistinctly, and it is the task of the historian to help find a place for their stories.

2. Dirty Optics (The Historical Closeup)

What, then, is the historical closeup, and how can it help us bring the ghosts of history into full presence? Here we may turn to Siegfried Kracauer’s book, History: The Last Things Before the Last, which he frames for his reader as the continuation of a line of inquiry first opened in his earlier book on film theory:

Recently I suddenly discovered that my interest in history . . . actually grew out of the ideas I tried to implement in my Theory of Film . . . . I realized in a flash the many existing parallels between history and the photographic media, historical reality and camera-reality (History 3-4).

First among these parallels was a tension between what Kracauer described as the “realistic” and “formative” tendencies, or competing needs to both respect and rework the reality documented by the camera or historian. However, as he was quick to note in his film book, “Objectivity in the sense of the realist manifesto is unattainable” (Film 15). The rendered reality was instead always inescapably shaped to some degree by the photographer-historian’s own subjectivity and larger concerns of his or her time. There is no possibility of a pure optics in Kracauer; there is no innocent or uncontaminated historical gaze.

New perspectives: Galileo’s telescope. Detail from painting by H. J. Detouche (1754).

New perspectives: Galileo’s telescope. Detail from painting by H. J. Detouche (1754).

The second major tension negotiated by both the filmmaker and historian, for Kracauer, is that both “must . . . move between the macro and micro dimensions” (History 122). In his film book he had pointed toward “Griffith’s admirable non-solution” of alternating between long shots, which offered subjects and actions in context, and closeups, “which do not just serve to further the action or convey relevant moods but retain a degree of independence” (129). For historians, the closeup retained this same power to deform the larger totality of which it was a part:

As I see it . . . [we should] concentrate on close-ups and from them casually . . . range over the whole, assessing it in the form of aperçus. The whole may yield to such light-weight skirmishes more easily than to heavy frontal attack (History 134-35).

The goal here is political, challenging received histories to gain critical insights on the present. This aim is achieved not just at the level of content, but also of form, exploiting the disruptive power of the historical closeup.

3. The Hilmesian Closeup

Who or what forms the subject of these closeups in Radio Voices? They are multiple, including particular programs (from Amos n Andy to Real Folks and An Open Letter on Race Hatred), performers (from Samuel Rothafel to Wendell Hall and Jack Benny), writers and producers (notably, below, Irna Phillips, Anne Hummert, Jane Crusinberry), and advertising agencies (J. Walter Thompson). In some cases, these are familiar figures whose examination in closeup serves to denaturalize the dominant narratives in which they have been traditionally inscribed, letting them begin to speak otherwise. In other cases, they are spectral presences, the muffled voices of those whom history has erased, invited back into the picture to say their piece.

1930s Magazine ad: Super Suds brings you NBC’s Clara, Lu & Em.

1930s Magazine ad: Super Suds brings you NBC’s Clara, Lu & Em.

As an example of the Hilmesian closeup in action, we may look to Chapter 6 of Radio Voices, titled “Under Cover of Daytime.” As with most chapters in this book, we open in long shot: whereas the early 1930s saw shows like The Goldbergs, Myrt and Marge, and Clara, Lu and Em running alongside more general-interest programming in the evening, as network radio expanded, women’s programming assumed a more “subordinate position” in daytime hours and was widely disparaged by critics for its sensationalism and crude commercialism (RV 151). From here we move into an even wider shot, as Hilmes discusses early twentieth century consumer culture’s production of what advertising historian Roland Marchand calls the “feminine mass,” seen as over-emotional, easily manipulated, and lacking in taste. At this point, an initial thesis is advanced: the relegation of more “feminized” and overtly commercial programming to daytime hours served a double containment strategy of 1) controlling women’s voices and 2) reconciling network broadcasting’s competing mandates for private profit and public service (152-3).

L-R: Irna Phillips, Anne Hummert, Jane Crusinberry.

L-R: Irna Phillips, Anne Hummert, Jane Crusinberry.

Three successive closeups of soap producers Irna Phillips, Anne Hummert, and Jane Crusinberry complicate this picture and work in dialectical tension with the opening long shots, showing how the daytime containment strategy at the same time created a space in which women and women’s issues could achieve greater public visibility and cultivate the solidarity needed for the formation of an effective “counterpublic” (RV 159). A closing return to long shot moves back to the previously posited daytime/nighttime division, the intermediary passage through a series of closeups having now challenged what at first appeared to be a strategy of subordination. What lies “Under Cover of Daytime” is not just the persistent commercialism that formed the seedy underbelly of network radio’s surface-level public service commitments, but also the creation of a protected public space in which women could build solidarity and begin to mount challenges to a dominant discourse that had traditionally excluded them. The voices of radio were not just those of male-dominated evening dramas and comedy/variety shows, but also those of daytime women’s programming, which are no longer forgotten or dismissed but now recognized for the serious cultural work they performed.

Nearly every chapter in Radio Voices follows this structure: a “big picture” presented in long shot with larger cultural contextualization leads to the formation of an initial thesis that is then strategically unsettled or modified through the technique of the closeup. The closeup becomes a means to resist or challenge the master narratives and sweeping views to which cultural history might otherwise be prone, a means of politicizing the telling of history at the level of form. It is a technique, I would suggest, that we also find deployed across other works by Hilmes, as something properly Hilmesian, though importantly, not the exclusive property of Hilmes. The historical closeup remains a vital tool for a critical cultural historiography that aims to restore the voices of those silenced in the past and create a space within the present in which they can be heard. Its Hilmesian deployment offers a valuable lesson in how to rewrite history, change the dominant discourse, and begin to make room for our dead.


Honoring Hilmes: “An Advisor is Forever” – Passing It On http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/05/19/honoring-hilmes-an-advisor-is-forever-passing-it-on/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/05/19/honoring-hilmes-an-advisor-is-forever-passing-it-on/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 13:00:37 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=26562 Post by Norma Coates, University of Western Ontario

This is the eleventh post in our “Honoring Hilmes”series, celebrating the career and legacy of Michele Hilmes on the occasion of her retirement. 

“An advisor is forever,” Michele Hilmes said to me soon after I received my PhD. I probably responded with “bwah hah hah.” I had accepted a job at UW-Whitewater because of my family’s desire to stay in Madison. And, now it can be told, my separation anxiety. How would I survive in academia away from Madison and MCS, and away from Michele’s sage advice and calming presence? As it turns out, I found that perhaps you can go home again – home being your graduate school – but you should leave for a while first. Michele knew that, and probably did not think that mine was the best decision, no matter how much I rationalized it to her and to myself. She never said anything negative about it – not to my face. She smiled her inscrutable smile and, as she had through my dissertation writing, let me make my own mistakes. My dream of continuing to attend colloquiums and to run my work and ideas by Michele for her critique and suggestions – that is, to maintain our grad school advisee/advisor relationship – evaporated quickly as I dealt with a 4/4 teaching load, a two-hour round-trip commute, a toddler, and a department with no like-minded thinkers. More to the point, Michele could no longer give me that type of attention nor, I think, did she want to. Logistics and workload aside, I learned from Michele that advising is much more than reviewing chapter drafts.

Like Michele, I have too many advisees. I now understand the demands that all of her advisees, including (especially?) me, made on her time – time that is far more precious than grad students know until they, too, join the professoriate. I now understand the haunted look that greeted me when I knocked on her shut door to have one of my periodic meltdowns. (Michele says that she could predict them.) Advising is much more than picking out courses, reading and commenting upon work, and eventually writing letters of recommendation for your (and other) students. Advising is being willing to put aside your own writing to work on your advisees – even when you’re not willing. If she minded, she did not show it.

Michele taught me that advising is about the advisee, not the advisor. From her, I learned to try to not impose my vision of what the student should do or say, but to get the student to express her voice and her ideas. She also showed me building the advisee’s confidence and leading her to trust her instincts is as important as going through her work. Whenever I work with an advisee who has gone down a rabbit hole or who is too snarled up in a thicket of what she thinks she “should” do instead of what she wants to do, I remember Michele’s patience with a few of my dissertation detours. She waited for, and trusted, me to find my way out on my own, sometimes gently suggesting me toward a better path. A great advisor, like Michele, teaches the advisee to listen to, and more importantly trust, her own voice.

grad_tassel14_1777From Michele, I learned that an advisor is also a midwife at the birth of an academic career. She taught me that an advisor encourages her advisees to establish a professional profile early and often. An advisor does not hide from her graduate students at conferences, even if she wants to, but introduces them to others working in their area. An advisor finds opportunities for her advisees to provide research assistance for her projects, or to contribute to their writing. An advisor continues to take an interest, and even help promote, her advisees’ careers long after the dissertation is finished. And sometimes, the advisor will continue to socialize with the advisee, and even host them for a stay when they return to town.

Michele’s advice is always with me, in the ways I described above and in the form of questions as I write, think, and plan my scholarship. I pose similar questions to my advisees. Am I asking the right questions? Am I clear? Do I have enough evidence? What am I really trying to say? Is this historicized enough? Do I believe in what I am arguing? Why is this here? Am I making the right connections? And the biggest one of all, what would Michele think of this? After all, an advisor is forever.


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Honoring Hilmes: “New Media” Historian http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/05/18/honoring-hilmes-new-media-historian/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/05/18/honoring-hilmes-new-media-historian/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 13:36:40 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=26577 old-time-radioPost by Danny Kimball, Goucher College

This is the tenth post in our “Honoring Hilmes” series, celebrating the career and legacy of Michele Hilmes on the occasion of her retirement.

So much has already been said in this wonderful series to honor Michele Hilmes and all the different ways she has had such a tremendous impact on media studies and cultural history, but there is one perhaps unlikely aspect of her legacy that I’d like to emphasize in some brief thoughts here: Michele Hilmes as “new media” historian.

I had the immense privilege of being an advisee of Michele’s through my graduate career and I benefitted greatly from her thoughtful guidance, kind nature, and sage advice. In addition, I was fortunate to have been trained by such an excellent “new media” scholar. The fact that Michele has advised many digital media scholars such as myself may strike some as odd considering that Michele is primarily known for her eminence as a radio historian. The intellectual curiosity and diversity that Ben Aslinger points to as characteristic of Michele’s approach is certainly key to this, but it also makes sense if we understand Michele’s pathbreaking scholarship as “new media” history. Indeed, Michele’s work on early radio broadcasting is a history of a new medium, just as writing about digital media of today is. From the historiographical perspective so effectively championed by Michele throughout her work as a scholar and a mentor, we can see the importance of the historical context that makes a medium “new” in a particular time and place and that scholars can only ever engage those media through traces of the past, whether the past century or the past month.

newwaveMichele may not foreground this aspect of her work — as history of old media when they were new — but her scholarship is nonetheless invaluable for new media scholars to properly historicize our work and our methods. Michele shows how to think historically and historiographically about today’s “new media” — how to see how much is not really new at all. Michele has deeply explored the historical antecedents to many of the issues at the heart of new media studies today, whether it’s media and cultural convergence (Hollywood and Broadcasting), access divides of identity and geography (Radio Voices), or transnational networked flows (Network Nations). Further, Michele’s recent work directly addresses today’s new media and its connections to Golden Age radio as what she calls “soundwork.”

The most important perspective on new media that Michele’s masterful historical work offers is an understanding of the role of culture and discourse in shaping the policy decisions and institutional structures that come to define media when they are new. In Michele’s historiographical work, how new media take the shape they do — deciding what and who media are for — is not an inevitable matter of technological determinism or economic dominance, but an ideological and discursive struggle along lines of gender, race, class, and national identity. How the dominant discourse of a medium emerges in national and transnational context shapes how that medium emerges and, as Michele shows, whose voices are heard and whose are marginalized as a result. (The constructed image of the “little boys in short trousers” that policymakers didn’t trust with the future of the airwaves is just one of the many vibrant examples from her work documenting this influence on emerging media.)

Michele Hilmes’ legacy for radio and sound studies, broadcasting history, and cultural studies is clearly profound and prodigious, but her influence extends further, as well: this quintessential cultural historian is also a profound new media scholar.


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Honoring Hilmes: Strange Report http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/05/14/honoring-hilmes-strange-report/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/05/14/honoring-hilmes-strange-report/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 13:00:42 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=26493 Strange_Report_title_cardPost by Jonathan Bignell, University of Reading

This is the ninth post in our “Honoring Hilmes” series, celebrating the career and legacy of Michele Hilmes on the occasion of her retirement. 

The aspect of Michele Hilmes’ work that has most affected me is her brilliant historical analysis of the related but distinct broadcasting traditions of Britain and the USA in Network Nations (2011). She has documented and evaluated their long-standing links, but also shown how each has defined itself by repudiating the other. The lesson that I have learned from Michele is that when we look closely at the detail of history, there are always more complex and more interesting things to discover. This post is just a brief example of such a discovery. What looks like a British show imitating an American format turns out to be a US production made abroad. Its conventionally transatlantic casting includes a Lithuanian playing an ex-patriate Minnesotan, and alongside the “swinging London” of the mid-1960s we see the decaying Victorian houses of the inner city.

My former colleague Billy Smart kindly gave me Network’s DVD release of the action series Strange Report (1969-70) recently. At first glance, it looks like a rather less successful example of the British action shows that flourished in the 1960s and briefly succeeded across the Atlantic too (as discussed in my 2010 Media History article). British series like The Saint (1962-69), The Avengers (1961-69), and The Champions (1968-69) adopted versions of US industrial organization to make programmes that would be saleable to US networks, by shooting on colour film, on location (British drama was still mainly shot on video in the studio), and with an upbeat “mod” aesthetic.


Strange Report seems initially to conform to the format. Each week a retired British Home Office criminologist, Adam Strange (played by Anthony Quayle), solves sensitive cases in which government departments cannot become publicly involved. Strange is aided by a young US Rhodes scholar, Hamlyn Gynt (Kaz Garas), and Strange’s next-door neighbour, the vivacious model-cum-artist Evelyn (Anneke Wills).

But rather than representing international modernity, Strange Report remains surprisingly bound to its London setting. The series was filmed from July 1968 to March 1969 on location in London and at Pinewood Studios outside the city. To solve cases, the methodical and avuncular Strange uses his personal laboratory at his house in the run-down Paddington district, and his cerebral approach is complemented by Gynt’s physical vigour and Evelyn’s familiarity with London’s trendy bohemian culture. The British Film Institute’s excellent online guide, screenonline, notes that: “Locating the show in a recognisably contemporary London allowed the programme to display a degree of realism and authenticity unusual for its genre.” One episode is an investigation of violent student demonstrations (shortly after the revolutionary events of May 1968 in Paris), while another is about immigration and racism (in 1967 the British Member of Parliament, Enoch Powell, infamously predicted “rivers of blood” after immigration from Britain’s former empire increased). Stylish action-adventure series rarely addressed such concerns. Although the middle-class, middle-aged Strange tamed these issues by the end of each episode, the disparate quasi-family of protagonists seem closely engaged in their milieu.

Two of the featured actors were British: Quayle trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and was a member of the respected Old Vic theatre company from 1932. After army service in World War II he was a leading actor and director at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, which would later become the Royal Shakespeare Company. He featured in the British war films Ice Cold in Alex (1958) and The Guns of Navarone (1961), as well as the epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Aneke Wills featured in a TV adaptation of British children’s novel The Railway Children in 1957, and in Doctor Who from 1966-67 as companion to Doctors William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. These were iconic English actors in significant British film and television roles. But Kaz Garas who played Strange’s youthful American sidekick was born in Lithuania, not the USA, though he based his career there.

NBC brochureThe most interesting aspect of this transnational programme is that its executive producer was Norman Felton, best known as the creator and producer of US network series Dr. Kildare (1961-66), The Lieutenant (1963-64), and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-68). Felton was a transatlantic figure himself; he was born in London, but his family migrated to the US in 1929. His parents returned but Felton stayed in the USA, won a playwriting fellowship to the University of Iowa, and worked in theatre, then radio at NBC. In the 1950s he worked in TV in New York, writing and directing for live anthology dramas like Alcoa Hour (1955-57), Goodyear Playhouse (1955-57), and Studio One (1948-58), and by end of the decade he was executive producer of Playhouse 90 (1956-60). He became MGM’s director of television, and formed the company that made Strange Report, Arena Productions, in 1961.

Felton was in London during production in 1969, and the British ITV network broadcast Strange Report that year. The intention was that production partner NBC would screen it in the USA and that a second, US-set series would be made in which the characters would relocate across the Atlantic. In January 1971, NBC got around to screening Strange Report on Fridays from 10:00 to 11:00 p.m. EST until September, but the second series was never made, apparently because Quayle and Wills did not want to travel. The strange story of Strange Report complicates the history of British drama and its relationships with the American market, offshore co-production involving the US networks, and the innovative collaborations between British and American personnel in the 1960s. And this is just the short version of the story….



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Honoring Hilmes: Days Well Spent http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/05/13/honoring-hilmes-days-well-spent/ Wed, 13 May 2015 13:00:09 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=26477 Trees lining Bascom Hill frame a view of Bascom Hall (top of the hill with white columns) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during a sunny autumn day on Oct. 7, 2009. On the horizon behind Bascom Hall is Van Hise Hall. ©UW-Madison University Communications 608/262-0067 Photo by: Jeff Miller Date:  10/09    File#:  NIKON D3 digital frame 5199

Bascom Hill at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Photo: Jeff Miller ©UW-Madison University Communications

Post by Michael Curtin, University of California Santa Barbara

This is the eighth post in our “Honoring Hilmes” series, celebrating the career and legacy of Michele Hilmes on the occasion of her retirement. 

Jonathan Gray’s post about mentorship and collegiality eloquently captures the collective sentiment of this online festschrift in honor of Michele Hilmes. Having worked closely with her as a faculty colleague, I can vouch for Jonathan’s account of her sterling leadership and professionalism. I want to comment briefly on the latter before offering some observations about Michele’s intellectual contributions to our field.

University professors can be pretty self-absorbed and, in a way, they have to be in order to run the gauntlet of tenure review and endure the stark loneliness of academic authorship. You have to believe deeply in yourself and your intellectual vision in order to simply persist as a scholarly researcher. The danger is that one can spend a bit too much time alone and attach a bit too much significance to one’s own vision. In the collective life of a department this becomes most evident when faculty members and graduate students begin to personalize the differences that inevitably arise in the course of departmental affairs. What’s truly remarkable about Michele is that she knows how to get the work done without personalizing the differences. Instead, she’s focused, clear-headed, articulate, and even-handed. Consequently, she can pull folks together and get things done under even the most challenging circumstances. Moreover, she does it in a confident but unassuming way that simply exudes professionalism. So, “best colleague ever?” Yes, without a doubt, and I might add, a role model for the profession.

hollywoodbroadcastingEqually inspiring is the fact that Michele’s investment in the general welfare of the department hasn’t detracted from her scholarly accomplishments. She has, for example, published truly pathbreaking historical monographs over the course of her career. Hollywood and Broadcasting was one of the first media histories to direct our attention to the synergies between radio and cinema during the 1930s. Previous research had generally considered these media separately (indeed entire departments and programs were built around the differences), overlooking the important interconnections that shaped the evolution of American popular culture. Moreover, the book anticipated the groundswell of interest that arose regarding media “synergies” during the conglomeration wave of the 1990s. Hollywood and Broadcasting became a touchstone for many conversations on this important topic.

Michele’s second book, Radio Voices, was the first critical and cultural history of radio broadcasting in America, comprehensively addressing issues that had previously been under-appreciated, such as class, ethnicity, gender, geography, and national identity. She extended this scholarship into the television and new media eras with her landmark textbook, Only Connect, which is without a doubt the best cultural history of US electronic media that is currently available for classroom use. During my days as a graduate student, Erik Barnouw’s Tube of Plenty was the standard point of reference for media historians and instructors, a status it enjoyed for decades because it was both comprehensive and comprehensible. As any book publisher will tell you, there’s something to be said for understated eloquence. Barnouw and Hilmes: that’s pretty heady company.

networknationsMichele’s most recent monograph, Network Nations, was the first history to carefully compare the development of British and American radio broadcasting, exploring the many tensions and interconnections between the two. As is well known, the British public service and the American commercial systems became the two most influential templates for the development of electronic media around the world. Network Nations shows that although the two took decidedly separate paths, they were self-consciously constituted through their respective differences. That is, British media evolved partially in response to national conditions and partially in response to its imagined other, the commercial cacophony of the American airwaves. Likewise, the US networks strove to distinguish themselves from the elite and measured qualities of British radio while claiming to serve the desires of the listeners first. As Hilmes explains, the ongoing dialogue between executives, creative talent, and policy makers played a foundational role in the constitution of electronic media on both sides of the Atlantic and it resonated further afield, establishing the fundamental parameters of media polices  forged in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and other parts of Europe. Network Nations has become an invaluable resource for research and teaching about media globalization.

So, think about it for a moment: three monographs (each a landmark), many anthologies, departmental leadership, superb teaching and mentorship, and as my festschrift collaborators have so eloquently affirmed, a profound influence on the development of radio and sound studies. Not bad. Days well spent… and many more to come. Congratulations and thank you, Michele.


Honoring Hilmes: The Amplification of Women’s Voices http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/05/12/honoring-hilmes-the-amplification-of-womens-voices/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/05/12/honoring-hilmes-the-amplification-of-womens-voices/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 13:52:11 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=26469 radiovoices

Post by Jennifer Hyland Wang, Independent Scholar

This is the seventh post in our “Honoring Hilmes” series, celebrating the career and legacy of Michele Hilmes on the occasion of her retirement. 

At the beginning of Radio Voices (1997), Michele Hilmes defended her study of radio to a field which had ignored it; studies of the programming, practices, and cultural traditions of radio, had “become the ‘repressed’ of television studies, occupying a position similar to that of the silent film era in film studies twenty years ago” (xv). To understand television’s role in American life, she argued, scholars must study radio. In her groundbreaking work, Hilmes brought American radio to life, revised contemporary media scholarship, and resurrected radio studies as a viable and valuable academic enterprise. For me, though, that was not her most significant contribution to broadcast history. In this field-defining text, she devoted chapters to daytime radio and the many women who operated in and around broadcasting. If studying radio is the repressed of television studies, then surely studying daytime radio – denigrated by contemporaries and snubbed by most academics – is to study the repressed of the repressed. Before Michele Hilmes, precious few scholars looked at radio, much less at how gender shaped American broadcasting. Few took seriously the sound of women’s voices wafting through the daytime ether. Except for Michele Hilmes. This, in my mind, was a more radical act, cementing her place in feminist media history.

Mary Margaret McBride, aka "Martha Deane."

Mary Margaret McBride, aka “Martha Deane.”

Hilmes re-centered the role gender played in broadcasting history and challenged her peers to try to make sense of broadcasting without it. In her books and published articles on the radio, television, and film industries, Hilmes listened to the whispers of the women who shaped American media and the spaces, places, and times when those voices were silenced. Whether writing about female DXers, soap opera writers, or daytime audiences, Hilmes pointed academics to a gaping hole in our understanding of how American broadcasting functioned. She told the story of how radio broadcasting used gendered identities to inform basic industrial practices and define the relationship between advertisers, audiences, and broadcasters. Hilmes delineated the profound and dynamic ways in which gender shaped broadcasting history and how gendered hierarchies were embedded in broadcasting’s DNA. Not only was American broadcasting shaped by gender, she argued, radio produced gendered representations and discourses that sometimes replicated, sometimes challenged, and often confounded those terms. No one had spoken with such clarity and insight on the critical role of gender in the origin of American broadcasting or on the continued relevance of gender in understanding the media’s operations.

Yet, Michele Hilmes’ work collecting, mentoring, and cultivating female scholars is as profound a contribution to the field of media studies as her own innovative scholarship. To explain, I need to tell a story. I was one of Michele’s many advisees in graduate school. I fell in love with radio and history in her classes, even as I yearned for a family. The difficulties I faced merging motherhood and academia were present from the very start of my academic training. I wrote my dissertation under Michele’s steady guidance as I raised two young children. I birthed my third baby the same morning I was scheduled to defend my dissertation. One week post-partum, bloated and sleep-deprived, I nursed my baby, walked into a room and defended my dissertation, and came out in time to nurse my young son again. At that moment, the messy, tangled terrain on which many female academics live their lives – the chaotic juxtaposition of breast feeding and intellectual inquiry, the labor that gives forth a new life and the labor that completes a long fought-for Ph.D., of sleep deprivation so severe that answers to basic questions eluded me at my defense at the moment that I was expected to stand toe-to-toe with my academic betters – was never more absurd, more lived, or more real.

Hilmes3 copyI have no unusual strength, no special superpower that allowed me to finish my degree while knee-deep in diapers, snot, and sippy cups. Completing graduate school was a much longer process than I, and certainly Michele, had ever imagined. What I did have was an advisor who had been there, someone who had balanced motherhood and academia, and had not just survived, but thrived. She had walked the walk, raising a delightful child while negotiating the demands of a dual career family. She was a proud mother and a productive and pioneering scholar. She showed me, and many others, that a balance – albeit tenuous, dynamic, and fraught – between family and career was possible, if it was negotiated on your own terms. She never judged our choices – to stay home with young children or to seek a tenure-track position, to pursue a traditional career in academia or one outside the ivory tower. Her feminism was pragmatic. She would ask about our personal dreams and professional aspirations and then helped us each fashion an academic career that resembled no one else’s. There was not one path, not one way to be an academic, and not one way to be a mother. No matter my choices, Michele Hilmes remained a steadfast presence in my life, encouraging me to marry my ambition as an academic with my duties as a mother in whatever convoluted way I could. It wasn’t a question of whether I, or any other female academic, could have it all. It was a question, she believed, of how much we could have on our plates at any given time, a process that was negotiated and renegotiated in increments, sometimes minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day.

In a recent podcast to celebrate Michele’s retirement, I listened to the many women who have graduated from UW-Madison’s Media and Cultural Studies program under Michele’s watch, or who had found encouragement from Michele in their early research, who wanted to speak about Michele’s profound influence on their academic life. Michele guided women like Cynthia Meyers, Lisa Parks, Elana Levine, Allison McCracken, Clare Bratten, Eleanor Patterson, Kit Hughes, Norma Coates, Megan Sapnar Ankerson, and Aniko Bodroghkozy and myself, among many others, through graduate school, dissertations, and workplaces.  In her academic work, Michele Hilmes unearthed the voices of historical women who experimented with broadcasting in the medium’s earliest days and broadcast them for all to hear.  Through her tenure at UW, she encouraged dozens of women to find their own voices in and around academia, multiplying the women trained to recognize the profound influence of gender in the formation and operation of broadcasting. It is this marriage – her media scholarship and her mentorship of female graduate students – that is a lasting and profound contribution to the field.


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Michele Hilmes and the Historiography of Discursive Analysis (Part 1) http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/05/11/towards-a-hilmesian-historiography-of-discursive-analysis-part-1/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/05/11/towards-a-hilmesian-historiography-of-discursive-analysis-part-1/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 21:07:04 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=26436 discoursePost by Josh Shepperd, The Catholic University of America

This post continues Josh Shepperd’s “On (the) Wisconsin Discourses” series from last year. This is Part 1 of 2 in a pair of posts commemorating Michele Hilmes.

Discourses as Political Will

Previous posts in this series have discussed how the “Wisconsin” tradition of media research has been informed by the Birmingham School approach to the problem of “discourse”. In short, “discourse” is a term that serves as a shorthand concept to refer to how embodiments are bound by stable yet flexible identity affiliations that respond to and intervene among social contradictions. The question of “political will” in discursive theory is defined as temporal hegemonic precedents that social ensembles interpret as they circulate representational codes among a “public”. This concept of discourse, which can be roughly approximated as a logic of how superstructural strictures influence social encounters, is usually applied through analysis of “determinants”, the “limits and pressures” faced by cultural blocs during social selectivity. “Selection” is not theorized as an opportune, consumptive, bootstrapping, or commercially based practice, but as adjustments emergent groups make in spite of limited opportunities for identity recognition or class mobility during social engagement. Discursive interactions are further guided by reference to internal histories communicable to other discursive blocs.

As Nancy Fraser, Michael Warner, Sara Ahmed, Julie D’Acci, and others have noted, publics carry inherent structural limits for group recognition. Part of the ongoing influence of the Birmingham theory of “discourse”, however, is that it accounts for macro forms of participation without prescribing a mandated mode for public engagement. Discursive theorists instead propose that a public is comprised of diachronically shifting perspectives, oriented toward social reciprocation while advocating for maximal visibility for their positions. Discursive power waxes and wanes, sometimes unpredictably, and even if a bloc has developed a “successful” representational code, this does not guarantee that a specific group will become politically “dominant”. Instead, a group’s communicative codes take on hybrid and homologous meanings and consequent applications in everyday life. Literacy of these codes provides insight into past discursive constructs and might help to anticipate strategies for future advocacy.

Discourse or “Discourse About”?

A crucial distinction often missed by contemporary media and cultural studies research is that distribution apparatuses are not continuing with discursive work merely because they are able to increase visibility by saturating perspective; businesses surely do this, as do consumer responses. The relationship between “mere” circulation and dialectical progress is specious at best. Two variables must be qualified so that discursive analysis might make viable ethical claims. The first variable asks: is a discursive construct a sustainable marker for identity formation, beyond a specific phenomenon studied? This question requires a fine distinction between the concept “discourse” and analysis of the discourse about a specific subject or pattern of behavior. The second variable addresses the contours of reciprocation. Does a “discourse” have the capacity to respond to larger social expediencies through an internally coherent logic, or is it a specific reactionary response to a proffered pleasure?

This second point is especially crucial for cultural work if one believes the Birmingham School maxim that discourses are characterized by their struggle for equitable recognition. Here it’s worth pointing out that distinctions should be made regarding what type of recognition is at stake. Consumer activism, for example, might achieve small gains by influencing representational depiction, but it’s not clear if working within the (very limited) constraints of an industrial interface permits advocating against larger conditions of structural reproduction. Paul Willis notes that many dimensions of resistance implicitly articulate solutions to social contradictions, but without clarifying what solution might be anticipated, actants fall into a simultaneous performance of resistance and dominant ideological reproduction. One’s consumer preferences might take on the simulation of a “discourse”, for example, but consumptive practice does not predicate discursive sustainability, ameliorate social parity, or provide grounds for dissension. Thus according to Richard Hoggart, Stuart Hall, and John Fiske, an innate degree of “drift” media literacy is necessary, so that discursive interventions might calculate public impact beyond colonization of the local by standardized culture.


Discursive Analysis of Residual History

This points to the primacy of the work of Michele Hilmes, the subject of the final piece in this series. Besides serving as a mentor and steward of the Wisconsin tradition since the 1990s, Hilmes has engendered a new tradition by clarifying one of the most difficult problems in discursive analysis – how might we trace ideological reproduction in practice itself, beyond critiquing representations after they’ve already been circulated? The Hilmesian approach might be described as an attempt to identify the causative basis of what we regularly call “residual” messages by looking to genealogies of discursive struggles. By introducing a rigorous historiographical model, Hilmes has founded a tradition concerned with the fundamental cultural studies question of how dialectical relationships between processes might be identified through institutional histories, e.g., “radio and film”, “production and reception”, “U.S. and Britain/transnational institutional approaches”. And she has continued with the Birmingham School project of identifying, examining, and contributing to the “media literacy” of varied “publics” besides the Habermasian political, including (and especially) the reflexive “popular”. She has expanded our evidentiary knowledge of how these varied publics – such as the imagined, discursive, and transnational – have reciprocated with the political.

As Wisconsin network historian Douglas Gomery has eminently argued, economies of scale define the organization of media industries as self-sustaining but holistic structures toward distributive and affective outcomes. Hilmes added an additional historiographical mandate: that scholarship look at the ways that institutions are founded and evolve in relation to each other, deliberately choosing structures of organization novel from other institutions. This method begs a fundamental question: to what do discursive blocs aspire, and how might we assess such aspirations without speculation or by uttering ideologically reproductive claims? Part of the answer, according to a Hilmesian historiography, can be found in understanding how institutions functionalize discursive interests.

In a few weeks, Part 2 of this post will look at the historical dialectics of discursive institutional analysis, as developed by Michele Hilmes.


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Honoring Hilmes: Radioed Voices Podcast http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/05/10/honoring-hilmes-radioed-voices-podcast/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/05/10/honoring-hilmes-radioed-voices-podcast/#comments Sun, 10 May 2015 15:13:07 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=26409

Post by Andrew Bottomley, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This is the fifth post in our “Honoring Hilmes” series, celebrating the career and legacy of Michele Hilmes on the occasion of her retirement. 

Professor Michele Hilmes is retiring at the end of this Spring semester (May 2015), after a highly distinguished career of nearly 30 years in the media studies field – more than 20 of those years spent in Antenna’s home, the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. To mark the occasion, a few of her students and colleagues at UW-Madison put together this radio documentary/podcast in her honor. After all, what better way to celebrate Michele than with the very medium she has spent so much of her career investigating and championing?

Written, Produced, and Directed By:
Andrew Bottomley

Jeremy Morris and Christopher Cwynar

Jeremy Morris and Andrew Bottomley

Sound Mix:
Jeremy Morris

Andrew Bottomley

Featuring (in alphabetical order):
Megan Sapnar Ankerson
Chris Becker
Ron Becker
Jonathan Bignell
Aniko Bodroghkozy
Norma Coates
Kyle Conway
Christopher Cwynar
Brian Fautuex
David Goodman
Jonathan Gray
Tona Hangen
Eric Hoyt
Kit Hughes
Josh Jackson
Jason Jacobs
Henry Jenkins
Derek Johnson
Michael Kackman
Danny Kimball
Bill Kirkpatrick
Derek Kompare
Shanti Kumar
Kate Lacey
Elana Levine
Lori Lopez
Amanda Lotz
Jason Loviglio
Janet McCabe
Allison McCracken
Cynthia Meyers
Jason Mittell
Jeremy Morris
Sarah Murray
Darrell Newton
Lisa Parks
Eleanor Patterson
Josh Shepperd
Matt Sienkiewicz
Lynn Spigel
Katherine Spring
Jonathan Sterne
Derek Vaillant
Neil Verma
Alyx Vesey
Tim Wall
Jennifer Hyland Wang

“Odyssey” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons BY 3.0

“Crashed” by Stereofloat
Licensed under Creative Commons BY-ND 3.0

Old Time Radio Clips (in order of appearance):
This is Your Life (TV)
The Jack Benny Program, “How Jack Found Rochester”
Martha Deane Show, “Dewey Wins”
The Burns & Allen Show, “Gracie Allen Inc.”
NBC Chimes
The Mercury Theatre on the Air, “The War of the Worlds”
The Mercury Theatre on the Air, “The Fall of the City”
Suspense, “Sorry, Wrong Number”
The Shadow, “Phantom Voice”
CBS Radio Mystery Theater, “Them”
Gang Busters, “Crime Wave Special Report”
Lux Radio Theatre, “The Thin Man”
The Thin Man (film)
Hollywood Hotel, “One in a Million”
The Movie Parade, “Design for Living”
Hootenanny of the Air
Amos ‘n’ Andy, “Andy the Actor”
Fibber McGee and Molly, “Fireball McGee”
The Texaco Star Theatre (Fred Allen), “Amateur of the Month”
The Aldrich Family, “Girl Trouble”
The Chisholm Trail
Transatlantic Call: People to People, “Women in Britain”
We Hold These Truths
On a Note of Triumph
Serial (podcast)

Special thanks to Jonathan Gray and Derek Johnson, as well as all the participants for recording themselves.




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Honoring Hilmes: Across the Borders http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2015/05/08/honoring-hilmes-across-the-borders/ Fri, 08 May 2015 13:00:22 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=26383 Hilmes3 copyThis is the fourth post in our “Honoring Hilmes” series, celebrating the career and legacy of Michele Hilmes on the occasion of her retirement. 

Post by Jason Jacobs, University of Queensland

The impact of Michele Hilmes’ scholarship on me is best told by tracking its contribution to my early formation as an academic. In 1990 I was fishing around for a PhD topic; I’d spent the final year of my film degree at the University of Warwick under the charismatic mentorship of Charlotte Brunsdon, who had introduced a compelling television studies strand into the capstone Film Aesthetics course and, as a result, I found myself writing and thinking a lot about television. It was that period of British television when the last great dramas were still in recent memory: particularly that golden year, 1986, when the BBC transmitted The Singing Detective, The Life and Loves of a She Devil and The Monocled Mutineer; also the year, in fact, when public service broadcasting effectively ended as a practice in the UK. That, in turn, stimulated my curiosity about the history of television drama: Where did these great things come from? What traditions do they inhabit and respond to? With these questions in mind it made sense for me (plus I hail from the region) to enroll at the University of East Anglia under the supervision of Charles Barr, who had recently published a piece in Sight and Sound which had contrasted the achievement of Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson’s The Classical Hollywood Cinema with the dearth of work on television history. There really was very little written in the UK about the history of television that wasn’t anecdotal or mostly concerned with institutional history (such as Asa Briggs’ History of Broadcasting in the UK, rather like – but not quite – Barnouw’s three volume history of US broadcasting). Nothing, certainly, to compare to the work in Thomas Elsaesser’s magnificent collection Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative, which was launched by him shortly after I arrived in Norwich.

hollywoodbroadcastingOf course, as the famous parable by Richard Hamilton instructs us, what I assumed were issues unique to my intellectual tastes and dispositions, turned out to be part of a much wider cultural momentum. There was work being written on television history, and the best of it was coming from the US: indeed most of my reading in my first year of PhD came from US based scholars, in particular William Boddy, William Urrichio and, of course, Michele Hilmes’ Hollywood and Broadcasting. This was precisely the rich, theoretically-inflected revisionist history I craved and, for a long while, my thesis had a strong US component. I even lived in Manhattan for several weeks in order to view as much early material as I could at the (then) Museum of Television and Radio. The advantages of scarce primary material! I didn’t meet Michele until a few years later in Madison and it really wasn’t until the early 2000s that we began to meet and talk fairly regularly. By then television history had considerable momentum, but it remained nationalized. Which is to say there was still that Briggs-Barnouw division: US history on one side, the rest on the other. When we were working on The Television History Book together there wasn’t a moment when we doubted the wisdom of bringing national television histories together – that underpinned, in a very small space, our shared belief in the intellectual fascination of flows of talent, technology, training and ideas between broadcasting nations. It is an indication as much of Michele’s commitment to this as it is to my weakness, that without her example I may have let it drop – so strong had the cultural-nationalist inflected British television history become.

There’s still a bit of that around, but it looks and sounds odd. A couple of years ago Michele was the keynote at a conference in the University of Reading, UK, and although her paper was typically stunning in its ambition and delivery, during questions I noticed some senior British academics carried the whiff of indignation at the effrontery of a Yank speaking so well about aspects of ‘their’ television and its connections and absorption in the US. Afterwards, as I drove Michele and her husband Bruce back to my hotel for a nice cup of tea, we reflected on the odd shortsightedness of such a response. One thing about Michele and her work (and as the title of one of her books puts it!) that is so distinctive and unusual is that she is all about making connections across the lines, and not about policing borders or holding territory.

I don’t have a copy to hand, but in his wonderful book, True Friendship, Christopher Ricks talks about Eliot and Pound’s friendship as incorporating competition, yes, necessarily – but never ruthless competition. Over the past few years I saw a lot of Michele as our projects converged, both interested in transnational relations between British and American broadcasting. Sometimes we’d run into each other at the BBC Written Archives in Caversham Park, or when I was up to my neck in the NBC archives in Madison. Once, over margaritas in her lakeside home, we both expressed a desire the other would publish first – it would be so helpful! I’m glad to say Michele’s Network Nations was first. Here’s an image that shows how helpful it has been, and continues to be for me. Each yellow leaf a reminder to return to her again.