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Sonic ModernityRepresenting Sound in Literature, Culture and the Arts$
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Sam Halliday

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748627615

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748627615.001.0001

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The Art of Listening

The Art of Listening

(p.157) Chapter 5 The Art of Listening
Sonic Modernity

Sam Halliday

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter distinguishes different styles, intensities and attitudes of listening, as they manifest themselves and are discussed across a range of twentieth-century media and discourses: film (via Humphrey Jenning’s Listen to Britain); musical aesthetics (via Vernon Lee’s Music and its Lovers); fiction (including E. M. Forster’s Howard’s End); drama (Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape); psychoanalysis, and a range of literary reflections on silence. Key to these discussions is a distinction between attention and inattention. The shift from ‘silence’ to sound in cinema is shown to have occasioned an intense debate about the merits of aligning sound and vision in aesthetic contexts; protagonists in this debate include Dorothy Richardson, H. D., Béla Balázs and Adorno. That vision may be inimical to ‘true’ or optimal listening is the wager of several texts centred on blindness, including Pierre Villey’s The World of the Blind: A Psychological Study. The chapter next considers how a range of how literary texts align fear with ‘heightened’ hearing, before focusing on the experience of civilian bombing raids during World War Two.

Keywords:   Listening, Attention, Silence, Cinema, Blindness, World War Two

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