Radio 3 Essay

Radio 3 Essay

Authored essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond, themed across a week. Each episode is full of insight, opinion and intellectual surprise from one expert voice. The Essay is broadcast on BBC Radio 3 Monday to Friday 10.45pm. We aim to include as many episodes of The Essay in the podcast as we can but you'll find that some aren't included for rights reasons.

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Recent episodes (10)

  • 11 APR 14: An Intimate History of the Bed

    Sat, 12 Apr 14

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Novelist and academic Ian Sansom explores the symbolism of beds in literature, art and film, and asks what beds reveal about human nature. 'Beds are where we are most physical, most elemental, and where we experience the great highs and lows of life. Everything significant that happens to us tends to take place in bed'. Certainly many of history's greatest thinkers and writers are thought to have been inspired in bed; G.K. Chesterton wished he had a pencil long enough to write on the ceiling while lying down, Milton is said to have written Paradise Lost in bed, and Truman Capote started his day in bed with coffee, mint tea, sherry and martinis.

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  • 10 APR 14: Cabinets of Curiosity

    Thu, 10 Apr 14

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Novelist Ian Sansom delves into cupboards and cabinets to explore what they reveal about human nature. Le Corbusier didn't approve of the clutter cupboards encourage, wanting to free our lives of 'junk'; whereas artist Herbert Distel filled a cabinet with trinkets donated by Man Ray, Annette Messager, Andy Warhol, and John Cage - 'a roll-call of twentieth-century conceptualists, creatives, collagists and curators of the curious' in his Museum of Drawers. Ian wonders if the contents of our cupboards really do tell our life stories, complete with all the hopes, dreams and broken promises suggested by unused pasta machines and unfinished jigsaws - or in the end does it all 'amount to nothing, just so much junk?

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  • 09 APR 14: Je suis un table

    Wed, 9 Apr 14

    Duration:
    14 mins

    The novelist and academic Ian Sansom explores the literary, philosophical and cultural history of the table. From dining to designing, drinking and disagreeing; the table is central to our lives; "the departure point and launching pad for a thousand hare-brained schemes and ideas, a drawing board, a battlefield, and also the philosopher's favourite tool". Ian has raised a family round his kitchen table, but his true table as a writer is a solitary one. Bertrand Russell used the table as a symbol to explore the uncertain nature of observed reality; Wordsworth urged readers to rise up from their wooden desk, while Karl Marx used tables to explore the notion of commodities in Das Kapital, but is the table Ian built for O-level woodwork the truest thing he has ever made?

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  • 08 APR 14: Who's Been Sitting in My Chair?

    Tue, 8 Apr 14

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Are you sitting comfortably? Despite his bad posture, novelist and academic Ian Sansom explores our complex physical, mental and emotional relationship with the chair. Chairs can symbolise who we are, like Ian's comfy old overstuffed armchair, and in 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears', the little bear asks 'Who?s been sitting in my chair?' which Ian reads as "Who am I?" Van Gogh painted two empty chairs after his famous fall-out with Gauguin; and Ian believes their symbolism is most powerful when empty, because empty chairs always imply people.

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  • 07 APR 14: The Wardrobe & the Other World

    Tue, 8 Apr 14

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Novelist and academic Ian Sansom steps into the history of wardrobes, to discover not only how and why we store clothes in large upright wooden boxes, but also why wardrobes feature so largely in fairy tales, memoirs and stories. From E. Nesbit's 'The Aunt and Anabel' to C.S Lewis's 'The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe', via Guy De Maupassant's tragic tale of a child in a wardrobe, Rimbaud's poem about a wardrobe with missing keys, and Roman Polanski's short film about two men who carry a wardrobe out of the sea; Ian explores the symbolism of wardrobes as a place where secrets are stored, imaginations inspired, consciences hidden, and our 'selves' reinvented

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  • Springwalks - Philip Hoare in Sholing 04 Apr 14

    Fri, 4 Apr 14

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Philip Hoare is quickly at the water's edge in Sholing, well before the waking hour. Then meetings with many animals are recalled.

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  • Springwalks - Kirsty Gunn in Sutherland 03 Apr 14

    Thu, 3 Apr 14

    Duration:
    13 mins

    Kirsty Gunn is in Sutherland, debating whether to ford the chilly River Brora on an afternoon hike.

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  • Springwalks - John Walsh 02 Apr 14

    Wed, 2 Apr 14

    Duration:
    13 mins

    John Walsh reckons that 'below' it feels wintry; yet ascend near a village called Steep and spring beckons. But where is he?

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  • Springwalks - Ross Raisin in the Yorkshire Wolds 1 Apr 14

    Tue, 1 Apr 14

    Duration:
    13 mins

    Ross Raisin recalls the Yorkshire Wolds, getting greener all the time, and scene of some famous new paintings by David Hockney.

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  • Springwalks - Michele Roberts in Poznan 31 Mar 14

    Mon, 31 Mar 14

    Duration:
    14 mins

    Five writers set out on foot to sample the transforming qualities of Spring. They report back with tales that are climatically confused - it could be warm or chilly out there ... Michele Roberts pounds the pavements of Poznan and is reminded of Persephone under scudding clouds.

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