Skip to main content

The Spirit of Man Goeth Upward

Research by Laura S. McKee, Berea Sound Fellow, regrading how WW-II era radio and personal histories have shaped the development of "From the Diary of Eve", a narrative series of poems set in Southern Appalachia.

Radio Resources & Writing Process

Regional Importance of the Radio

Though the mountain South was still rural and isolated in many respects, many families owned radios and enjoyed programming broadcasted from urban centers. Chad Berry quotes radio historian, Susan Smulyan, in his essay from “Assessing the National Barn Dance”: “Farmers and radio seemed made for each other.” Building from Smulyan’s argument, Berry observers: “What could be more exotic and progressive than listening to a voice conveying weather information or old-­‐time music from Chicago, hundreds of miles away. The answer of course is nothing, and it’s the reason my grandmother in the 1930’s was willing to part with some her prize hens in order to take part in this national entertainment medium.”

A majority of my research focused on WHAS radio programming between 1939-­‐ 1944, with a particular emphasis on broadcasts focused on events leading up the World War II.

I wanted to sample a range of radio broadcasts, as a way of exploring how Eve might understand both local culture and global current events, and was struck by how varied the WHAS programming was as well the many textures of language reflected in these broadcasts. Over the course of my research, I listened to language that was formal, Biblical, folksy, idiomatic, grave, jocular, and whimsical and hope to capture this play of diction and tone across the poems of the book.

Above all, especially in Chapter Two, the book will explore how radio worked to reshape Eve’s perception of her world—or rather, how it gradually, working concomitantly with her own curiosity and restlessness, to crystallize an image of her place in the world, forged from a sharpened understanding of her home as well as the world beyond.