Join Radio Benjamin editor Lecia Rosenthal and contemporary radio pioneers Benjamen Walker and Jonathan Mitchell at Verso for an evening of readings and discussion about Walter Benjamin’s brief career in radio–and his prescient writing on the medium itself. The event will be recorded and will form the basis for an episode of Walker’s Theory of Everything.
Benjamin was fascinated by the impact of new technology on culture, an interest that extended beyond his renowned critical essays. From 1927 to ’33, he wrote and presented something in the region of eighty broadcasts using the new medium of radio. Radio Benjamin gathers the surviving transcripts, which appear here for the first time in English. This eclectic collection demonstrates the range of Benjamin’s thinking and his enthusiasm for popular sensibilities. His celebrated “Enlightenment for Children” youth programs, his plays, readings, book reviews, and fiction reveal Benjamin in a creative, rather than critical, mode. They flesh out ideas elucidated in his essays, some of which are also represented here, where they cover topics as varied as getting a raise and the history of natural disasters, subjects chosen for broad appeal and examined with passion and acuity.
Rosenthal, Walker, and Mitchell will each read from transcripts of Benjamin’s broadcasts, and then Rosenthal and Walker will discuss the meaning and impact of Benjamin’s work on and around radio.
Lecia Rosenthal is the author of Mourning Modernism: Literature, Catastrophe, and the Politics of Consolation. She has taught at Columbia and Tufts.
Benjamen Walker has made radio for NPR, WNYC, WFMU, and the BBC. Currently he produces and hosts ‘The Theory of Everything,’ part of the Radiotopia network from the public radio exchange (toe.prx.org).
Jonathan Mitchell has contributed a wide range of work—documentaries, fictional stories, non-narrated sound collages, and original music— to all sorts of programs: Radiolab, Studio 360, This American Life, Hearing Voices, Fair Game, The Next Big Thing, and PBS’s Nova, to name a few. His work has won many awards, including the Peabody, Third Coast Festival, and the Gold Mark Time Award for Best Science Fiction Audio. He studied music composition at University of Illinois and Mills College, and lives in New York City.