Sensual Shifts: From Looking to Listening in Modernist Literature

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Angela Frattarola

Sensual Shifts:

From Looking to Listening in Modernist Literature
From Greek philosophy to the Enlightenment, vision has been the privileged sense. Traditionally associated with knowledge and rationality, vision encourages a subject to keep a distanced, analytical perspective of an object. But can the other senses allow new ways of conceiving of and experiencing the relationship between the self and the world? This seminar begins by examining the dominance of vision in modernity and turns to audition as a way of thinking about alternative perceptions of the self and the world. We accomplish this by closely reading modernist fiction that suggests a growing skepticism toward vision and heightened attention to sound and listening. In order to think about why modernists brought sound to the forefront of their art, we will attempt to gain a sense of the modernist soundscape and new auditory technologies of the time. What did the music of the period sound like? What did people think about the phonograph, radio, and telephone? Readings for the course consist of essays from sound studies as well as fiction by Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Richardson, Jean Rhys, Samuel Beckett, and James Joyce.

Required Texts:

  1. Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man by James Joyce (Dover, 1994) ISBN-10: 0486280500; ISBN-13: 978-0486280509

  2. Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys (Norton, 1994) ISBN-10: 0393311465; ISBN-13: 978-0393311464

  3. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (Mariner, 1990) ISBN-10: 0156628708; ISBN-13: 978-0156628709

  4. Pointed Roofs by Dorothy Richardson (CreateSpace, 2013) ISBN-10: 1467945323; ISBN-13: 978-1467945325

  5. Under the Jaguar Sun by Italo Calvino (Mariner, 1990) ISBN-10: 0156927942, ISBN-13: 978-0156927949

  6. Electronically available through Bobst: The Sound Studies Reader, edited by Jonathan Sterne (Routledge, 2012)

  7. NYU Classes or the web: short stories and essays

Requirements and Assessment:
Class Presentation: 10%

First Response Paper (3 pages): 10%

Second Response Paper (3 pages): 10%

Midterm Essay (7 pages): 35%

Final Essay (7 pages): 35%

Tentative Schedule:
Week 1: Ocularcentrism

January 27: Introduction, The Rite of Spring

January 29: Martin Jay chapter (NYU Classes)

Week 2: The Soundscape

February 3: Sound Studies Reader, Sterne’s “Sonic Imaginations,” Connor’s “The Modern Auditory I” (NYU Classes)

February 5: First half of Joyce’s Portrait

Week 3: Listening

February 10: Sound Studies Reader, Rath’s “No Corner for the Devil to Hide” and Chion’s “The Three Listening Modes”

February 12: Finish Joyce’s Portrait
Week 4: The Voice

February 17: President’s Day – OFF!

February 19: Sound Studies Reader, Cavarero’s “Multiple Voices” and Calvino’s Under the Jaguar Sun

**First Response Paper due
Week 5: Noise

February 24: Sound Studies Reader, Picker’s “The Soundproof Study” and Schafer’s “The Soundscape”

February 26: First half of Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway
Week 6: Music

March 3: Sound Studies Reader, Attali’s “Noise” and Leppert’s “Reading the Sonoric Landscape”

March 5: Finish Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway
Week 7: The Sound Poem

March 10: Draft of Essay 1 due, in-class work-shopping with a hard copy of draft

March12: Sound Studies Reader, Kahn’s “Noises of the Avant-Garde”; Selection of poetry (NYU Classes)

**Midterm Essay due on Friday, March 14
Spring Break
Week 8: Voice

March 24: Sound Studies Reader, Barthes’s “The Grain of Voice” and Dolar’s “The Linguistics of the Voice”

March 26: First half of Richardson’s Pointed Roofs and Richardson’s “About Punctuation” (NYU Classes)
Week 9: The Auditory I

March 31: Sound Studies Reader, Thompson’s “Sound, Modernity and History” and Oliver Sacks “The Power of Music”

April 2: Finish Richardson’s Pointed Roofs
Week 10: The Phonograph and Popular Recordings

April 7: Sound Studies Reader, Kittler’s “Gramophone,” Gittleman’s “The Phonograph’s New Media Publics”

April 9: Rhys short story selection (NYU Classes)

**Second Response Paper Due
Week 11: Interior Monologue, Marketing the Bohemian Voice

April 14: Begin Rhys’s Voyage in the Dark

April 16: Finish Rhys’s Voyage in the Dark
Week 12: Wireless and Telephone

April 21: Sound Studies Reader, Hilmes’s “Radio and the Imagined Community,” Berland’s “Contradicting Media” and Kipling’s “The Wireless”

April 23: Dorothy Parker’s “A Telephone Call”, Kafka’s “The Neighbor,” and Peter’s “The Telephonic Uncanny”
Week 13: Repetition and Loops

Viewing: Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape

April 28: Pierre Schaeffer, excerpts on musique concrete (NYU Classes)

April 30: Beckett’s prose (NYU Classes)

Week 14: Modernist Radio Drama

May 5: Draft of Essay 2 due, in-class work-shopping with a hard copy of draft

May 7: Beckett’s radio plays
Last day of class!

May 12: Final Essay due

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