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2003-2004 Visiting Fellows

Damien Keane
University of Pennsylvania

I received a Library Research Grant from the Friends of the Princeton University Library in April 2003 in order to examine the Records of the Princeton Listening Center at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library during the following summer; and, to this end, I traveled to Princeton from Philadelphia, where I am a PhD candidate in English at the University of Pennsylvania, to read through the materials in the archive between the last week of May and the first week of July. When I first sent in my application, I had assumed, were I to receive the grant, that the holdings would provide background on the monitoring of international shortwave broadcasts during the early years of World War II, given what I had read of the work done by the Princeton Listening Center and of the holdings at Princeton in the course of doing research for a chapter of my dissertation. This chapter is concerned with Francis Stuart, an Irish novelist, who went to Germany in 1940 and worked for the Nazi propaganda ministry's radio division assigned to making broadcasts to Ireland and who after the war became a figure revered by some as a rebel against staid convention and reviled by others as a willful collaborator with horror. Coming in to the research at Mudd, I had no expectations of coming across anything directly relating to Stuart-a circumstance that I explain below-but was curious to begin more fully to grasp how the techniques of shortwave broadcasting and radio propaganda were understood and analyzed by academic and non-governmental listeners, a dynamic that would move the discussion of Stuart away from the terms of individual motives and actions, where debate about him in Ireland has been mired for fifty years. Having now completed the intensive study of the Records of the Princeton Listening Center, I feel that not only do I have a better sense of the institutional connections, political backgrounds, and academic contexts of the men who founded and staffed the Listening Center, but also a wider conception of the specific nature of radio monitoring in the larger scope of international politics in the 1930s and 40s.

That I did not expect to find anything directly pertaining to Stuart was simply a matter of dates: although there is conjecture that he was peripherally involved in broadcasting to North America in 1941, the standard accounts of Stuart's time in Germany have him giving his first broadcast to Ireland on St Patrick's Day 1942, ten months after the Princeton Listening Center closed down. It was then quite exciting to find in the records several references to, including a full transcript of, a talk on "The Modern Novel and Society" by "Frances Stewart, Irish Novelist" broadcast on 09 June 1940, which, in tone and in content, accords closely with the radio talks the author was making on a regular basis after March 1942. While this talk may be nothing more than a one-off "lecture," it nevertheless indicates that Stuart's contact and official involvement with the Nazi propaganda ministry began much earlier than has been believed. (The answer to the question of when Stuart first came to work for Irland-Redaktion may lie in the archives of the German Foreign Ministry, which were being moved to Berlin from Bonn when the transcripts of his wartime broadcasts were being prepared for publication.) In the context of the analysis of broadcast technique-program content, transmission and propaganda policy, on-air style, political rhetoric, and so on-conducted at the Princeton Listening Center, it becomes obvious that such a broadcast, quite apart from the personal motivations, idiosyncrasies, or culpability of any one individual, is part of a political, ethical, and rhetorical system that was in service to mid-century death-dealing; and, from our own historical moment, marked as it is by advances in media technology, a belligerent international order, and a blinkered sense of precedents and implications, that understanding such systems is an important scholarly task. This final recognition was made abundantly clear by reading the faculty files of the men who worked for the Listening Center, for here one was able to piece together the institutional affiliations and connections that coalesced in Princeton during the early years of the war: the work done by the Listening Center was a natural continuation of the scholarly interests of its members in broadcast propaganda and public opinion, yet its very reason for being adds urgency to the entirety of the holdings.

In closing, I would like to thank the librarians and staff at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, who fielded each of my questions and attended to each of my requests during my weeks of research there with patience and kindness.


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