Sound Studies in Literature (Roundtable)


Comparative Literature / Cultural Studies and Media Studies

Shawn Higgins (University of Connecticut)

This roundtable proposal seeks to expand the conversation on sound studies in literature. Instead of focusing on one time period or geographical area, this roundtable brings scholars of all different types of literature together to discuss sound in literature.

Richard Cullen Rath analyzes “soundways,” or “the paths, trajectories, transformations, mediations, practices, and techniques – in short, the ways – that people employ to interpret and express their attitudes and beliefs about sound.” Rath calls this kind of work “cultural history” and “a contribution to the history of the senses,” and he hopes to “recover a portion of the seventeenth-century sensorium, one muffled by time, documentation, and the literate, highly visual mindsets of scholars” through this framework. This is one way in which sound studies is carried out in literature.

Related areas of interest include silence in literature, signals, soundmarks, noise, instrumental song, vocal singing, ranting/tantrums/incoherence, recording, and commenting on sound. Preferably, this roundtable will bring together scholars with interest and experience in diverse fields.

Possible topics of discussion might include: industrial noise in Victorian literature, the soundscape of the battlefield in war literature, onomatopoeia in Japanese poetry, sounds and silence in nature in the Romantic era, the textualization of singing and of music, synesthesia and the body, and other-worldly sound and sound properties.

This roundtable proposal seeks to expand the conversation on sound studies in literature. Instead of focusing on one time period or geographical area, this roundtable brings scholars of all different types of literature together to discuss sound in literature.This roundtable proposal seeks to expand the conversation on sound studies in literature.

Richard Cullen Rath analyzes “soundways,” or “the paths, trajectories, transformations, mediations, practices, and techniques – in short, the ways – that people employ to interpret and express their attitudes and beliefs about sound.” Rath calls this kind of work “cultural history” and “a contribution to the history of the senses,” and he hopes to “recover a portion of the seventeenth-century sensorium, one muffled by time, documentation, and the literate, highly visual mindsets of scholars” through this framework. This is one way in which sound studies is carried out in literature.

Related areas of interest include silence in literature, signals, soundmarks, noise, instrumental song, vocal singing, ranting/tantrums/incoherence, recording, and commenting on sound. Preferably, this roundtable will bring together scholars with interest and experience in diverse fields.

Possible topics of discussion might include: industrial noise in Victorian literature, the soundscape of the battlefield in war literature, onomatopoeia in Japanese poetry, sounds and silence in nature in the Romantic era, the textualization of singing and of music, synesthesia and the body, and other-worldliness in science fiction and horror writing.