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Theater of the Mind: Imagination, Aesthetics, and American Radio Drama Paperback – Jul 11 2012


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“Any scholar or critic invested in the soundscapes and cultures of postwar media within or without the US—cinema, radio, television, print, and even such post-postwar audiovisual media as the home computer and the smartphone—must hereafter contend with the concepts so richly developed in Theater of the Mind.”
(Journal of American Studies)

“Theater of the Mind does more to reanimate the study of radio forms and structures—indeed, of sound art in general—than any work published in recent memory. Neil Verma's exploration of audio narratives and sonic techniques during radio drama's heyday opens up a vast body of creative work that has been shut off from serious contemplation for decades. It is an important intervention in the growing field of sound studies, not to be missed.”
(Michele Hilmes University of Wisconsin–Madison)

“While most scholars have explored radio in terms of broadcasting music or journalism, Neil Verma explores the medium’s neglected but very popular dramas. In this detailed analysis, he reveals how radio, from the thirties through the fifties dramatized the conflicts of the Depression and New Deal and the paranoia of the fifties. By constructing a “theater of the mind,” radio used sound and narrative structure to tell the nation’s stories, encompassing social transformation and psychological perspective.”
(Tom Gunning University of Chicago)

“Neil Verma’s Theater of the Mind is a gift in an age when so many have forgotten the depth of radio’s contribution to sonic culture. Verma rethinks sound as a creative medium in the past and in the present, offering a definitive account of radio drama in the 20th century. His spatial readings of these dramas and their listeners—supported by fresh concepts like audioposition and kaleidasonic space—promise to transform the ways in which we analyze creative audio. Theater of the Mind is a major work of radio history.”
(Jonathan Sterne author of The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction)

“Verma begins his ambitious and impres­sive book on classic radio drama with ‘one of the most venerable clichés’ about the medium of radio: it is ‘the theater of the mind.’ Over the course of several close listen­ings, he transforms the phrase from ‘an idiom into a heuristic’ of remarkable depth and breadth. In doing so, Verma provides a fresh vocabulary for thinking about classic ra­dio drama, with remarkable insights into the ways radio dramatists employed new strate­gies of sound design.  . . . Verma’s contribution to the growing shelf on U.S. radio history is significant for its un­precedented insight into the centrality of the aesthetics of sound in radio drama, its insight­ful close listening to exemplary broadcasts, and its sheer scope in encompassing thousands of broadcasts.”
(Journal of American History)

“Verma returns to recordings of golden age radio dramatic programs and listens anew. His refreshing, thoughtful Theater of the Mind establishes a theory of radio aesthetics through close readings of programs and genres, a method of ‘excavational listening’ that he calls ‘media archaeology . . . the paleontology of experience.’ Recognizing that we can never hear with historical ears, Verma nonetheless takes radio programs seriously as art—art about the self, especially—and as evidence of ambient ideas about interiority, identity, and consciousness.”
(American Quarterly)

“Verma’s study is a valuable text that informs popular literature studies as much as sound, radio and communication. His exhaustive study of the post Second World War crime and spy genres on US Radio offers an important adjunct to any school of English. . . . This is a work of exceptional scholarship and will be a seminal contribution to the history and aesthetics of radio drama in the USA for many years to come.”
(Journal of Adaptation in Film & Performance)

“Verma deftly alternates between close readings of single moments in plays and large-scale interpretations across entire series to convincingly contend that radio drama was fundamentally imbricated in shaping (in addition to reflecting) the ways in which Americans apprehended space, time, self, and mind in relation to domestic and international politics, intimately and publicly, across three decades. . . . Theatre of the Mind will be of interest to performance, theatre, culture, and media scholars working in the first half of the twentieth century in the United States. Yet it will also be of interest to scholars and students working far beyond this geographical and temporal focus for its innovative methodology and elegant, consistent argumentation.”
(Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism)

About the Author

Neil Verma is a Harper Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and a Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago.

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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Theater of the Mind a great book to read Dec 25 2013
By R. Swain - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Neil Verma has written a comprehensive account of the history of the Golden Age of Radio with revealing detail. Anyone who is interested in the fascinating history of radio drama before television and block-buster movies began to mesmerize audiences will love this well-researched account. As an early radio history buff, I found many new facts that I wasn't aware of on this subject. The illustrations and charts that the author includes helps to show that radio's golden era can be subdivided into periods of time based upon what was happening in American society and the world in general. I found Theater of the Mind (and "from the mind" and "for the mind" as the author explains) a fascinating read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Great insight, but a little too academic at times Aug. 16 2013
By Nick Palmer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a longtime fan of old radio shows, I was thrilled to come across this book. There's plenty of books on the history of radio, but I've had trouble finding any writing on the topic that addresses it seriously as an artform. Verma's book really digs deep, examining the evolution of radio storytelling in an intelligent and well-argued way, filled with specific examples that have changed the way I hear some of my favorite programs. At times it can be a bit too academic, but overall I found it to be a compelling read.


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