Radio The Theater of the Mind

Brought to you by Hopkins at Home 

May 28, 2020 - June 18, 2020 (4 weeks)
Thursdays, 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM EDT 

Each week will consist of a live lecture with discussion immediately afterwards.

Course Description

Are you frightened by the thought of unseen invaders in your living room? Do you suspect foreign agents or even your own family members of trying to poison you? Is the government lying to you? If you said yes to any of these questions then you may be ready to return to the theater of yesteryear: Radio, The Theater of the Mind. Here drama is performed on the stage of your imagination. Voices become characters and sound effects props. Like bats flying blind, with radio we create set designs in our own minds through such simple means as reverb and echo. A gasp or a held breath can thrill or tickle us as much as the special effects Hollywood now spends millions on. In this course we will investigate how radio classics like the “War of the Worlds” and “The Jack Benny Program” used mere sound and even more meagre silence to spread both panic and laughter. We will consider how the Golden Age of Radio’s favorite genres and much-beloved shows were shaped by society, technology, and politics: the fear of big government, greater equality for women, the aftermath of one shadowed by the threat of another World War, as well as the invention of radio itself and the spread of other technologies designed to bring the world right into your living room.


  1. Realism in radio
  2. How dead air means death on the air
  3. Fear of invasion
  1. Radio as a way of reaching out
  2. Sound as symbol
  3. Speaking from beyond the grave
  1. Disembodied voices
  2. Women as monsters
  3. Technology is making robots of us all
  1. Stereotypes and recurring characters
  2. How silence leaves room for laughter
  3. The lavender gentleman goes “swish”

Hyperlinks lead to radio shows for each week, if students would like to listen before each class. 

Course Instructor

DFosterAssociate Professor Daniel H. Foster chairs the Liberal Arts Department at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University. A comparatist with a particular interest in the intersection of high and low, old and new music, literature, and drama, Foster teaches and publishes on such subjects as opera and blackface, Greek lyric and Welsh song, new media and Old Time Radio. He authored Wagner’s Ring Cycle and the Greeks (Cambridge 2010) and is currently at work on From Bards to Blackface, or How the Minstrel Changed His Tune. His articles have been published in both academic and crossover journals ranging from The Journal of American Drama and Theatre to Smithsonian Magazine, Times Higher Education, and The Paris Review.



 Event Date
Thursday, May 28, 2020
Start Time: 12:00pm

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