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Sounding ModernismRhythm and Sonic Mediation in Modern Literature and Film$
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Julian Murphet, Helen Groth, and Penelope Hone

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474416368

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474416368.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 25 June 2021

On Not Listening to Modernism

On Not Listening to Modernism

(p.19) Chapter 2 On Not Listening to Modernism
Sounding Modernism

Julian Murphet

Edinburgh University Press

Around the beginning of the twentieth century, there emerged an increasingly prevalent literary trope of a sound that cannot (or should not) be heard. This trope had its correlates in contemporary science and astrophysics, where the universe’s ‘background hum’ was conceptualized to make sense of the persistent radio static that scanners had made audible for the first time. But it also had a background in the literary tradition: Keats’ ‘spirit ditties of no tone’, Kleist’s ‘St Cecelia’s Day’, even the plugging of the oarsmen’s ears in Homer’s Odyssey. This chapter considers the proliferation of this trope in light of contemporary research into sound theory and the instrumentalization of sense perception in modernity, before turning more pointedly to think through the repercussions of Lacan’s il n’y a de cause que ce qui cloche in relation to ontology and the history of listening. It then examines in some detail the two writers – Kafka and Lovecraft – who, more than any others, sought a literary aesthetic adequate to grappling with this sound that cannot or should not be heard.

Keywords:   Listening, Silence, Noise, H. P. Lovecraft, Literary modernism, Franz Kafka

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