I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 17-24 March 2023

Travels Through Time The Great Debate: 1860. This episode features Nicholas Spencer, who has recently published Magisteria, The Entangled Histories of Science and Religion, (no small history, this one) He points out that science and religion were not necessarily in tension: that it was more a question of authority. They are both modern terms, coined in the 18th and 19th centuries. ‘Science’ prior to the 19th century often included natural philosophy, maths, natural theology while ‘religion’ as a term arose during the Reformation. He points to John Draper’s 1876 book on the conflict between science and religion, published at a time when the Catholic church was asserting its authority and during a time of European immigration. He also points to the rise of fundamentalism in the early 20th century and the hijacking of evolution by the eugenics movement, leading southern Protestants to become fearful, a defensiveness that was reflected in the Scopes trial. His three scenes were: Scene One: Charles Darwin receiving a letter from clergyman and novelist Charles Kingsley, in November 1859, congratulating him on the Origin of Species, an advance copy of which he has just read. Scene Two: The publication of the most controversial book of the age – not On The Origin of Species but Essays and Reviews, in March 1860, igniting a passionate debate about Biblical texts. Scene Three: The famous Oxford debate between T.H. Huxley (‘Darwin’s bulldog’) and Bishop ‘Soapy’ Sam Wilberforce in late June 1860.

Conversations (ABC) The Life of Doctor Norman Swan. During the coronavirus pandemic, Dr Norman Swan and Tegan Taylor were must-listens for a daily rundown on coronavirus and the political policies set in place. In this episode from July 2021 (I’ve been meaning to listen to this for some time!) Norman Swersky (his name until his father changed it after WWII) talks about his family background in Odessa after 1905, and the attempt to emigrate to United States until the ship’s captain learned that the US migration cap had been reached. He studied medicine and unsuccessfully auditioned for the Royal Academy for the Dramatic Arts- but ended up being a radio celebrity after all!

History Extra Sirens, Succubi and Sex Symbols Featuring Sarah Clegg, author of the new book Woman’s Lore, this episode examines the different myths about female monsters, across time and cultures. Often depicted as a child killer who attacks mothers and babies, these myths reflect the male fears of women’s sexuality and the female fears of childbirth, and as a way of deflecting responsibility for death in times when medicine could offer little escape. She notes that various figures have been adopted by 21st century communities: e.g. Lilith (Adam’s first wife) by the LGBTQI community, and mermaids by the trans community.

Emperors of Rome Frontinus. That’s funny, I thought, I haven’t heard of Emperor Frontinus. That’s because he never was an Emperor but instead was a military man and the writer of treatises especially on military strategy and on aqueducts. He was born in Gaul from Equestrian background, and was obviously very trusted by Domitian, Nerva, and Trajan. He was Governor of Britain betweenn 74-78, and was Consul three times (very unusual). He wrote a technical book on land surveying, then an anecdotal book on military strategies, followed by his most famous work on aqueducts, written after he was made Water Commissioner. He wanted ‘the textbook’ and decided to write it himself, but also to prove that when Senators were given an administrative office, they rose to the challenge. The aquaducts separated water by source and use, and he also dealt issues of fraud and leakage. Episode LII – Hadrian the Little Greek points out his loose family connection with Trajan, although Trajan adopted him anyway as a ward while Trajan was a general. He later married a relative of Trajan, thus forging an even strong link. He was more literary than Trajan, and enjoyed a long period of mentorship. He was never formally adopted as Trajan’s heir (or if he was, it happened just before Trajan died) and there are hints that Trajan’s wife Plotina was behind his accession as emperor. Hadrian quickly deified Trajan, so that he could say that he was the heir of a deified emperor, and he set out finished some of Trajan’s unfinished building projects. Episode LIII – Rome Welcomes Hadrian To cement his position, he had four influential Romans ‘murdered’ before they cause him any problems, although he was careful to distance himself from their deaths. Nonetheless, it was a bad first impression, so he worked hard at dispensing lots of welfare and army provisions and clearing people’s debts. He returned to the Augustan rule of thumb- don’t cross the Euphrates, and divested himself of some of the recently gained territories and installed client kings there. He took the scenic route back to claim his emperorship, taking some two years, and surveying the provinces as he did so. And he started a bit of a fashion trend by wearing a beard- the Greek philosopher look.

Archive on 4 (BBC) Writing Our Mothers. I just loved this episode. Presented by feminist writer Jacqueline Rose, it is structured in 7 ‘chapters’: 1. The Mother as the Angel of the House 2. Mother Looking in 3. Add odds with motherhood 4. The mother as autobiography 5. The Mother, Madness and Rage 6. The Mother and Acts of Violence 7. The Mother and the Erotic. It has readings and archival interviews with a huge range of writers: Arundhati Roy, Edna O’Brien, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, Jeanette Winterson among others, and readings from Toni Morrison, Elena Ferrante and others. I really enjoyed this.

2 responses to “I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 17-24 March 2023

  1. robinandian2013

    The Archive on 4 sounds right up my alley – and it’s a new podcast to me. I immediately signed up. Your suggestions are always of interest, but particularly this one. Thanks.

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