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Hardy, Conrad and the Senses$
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Hugh Epstein

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474449861

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474449861.001.0001

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An Audible World

An Audible World

(p.139) Chapter Four An Audible World
Hardy, Conrad and the Senses

Hugh Epstein

Edinburgh University Press

The chapter opens by contrasting the human capacities for audition as opposed to vision, and the qualities conveyed by sound as opposed to those by light. Despite the general acceptance of wave theory, from the nineteenth century through to today issues of auditory location, transmission and reception remain contested. The ‘auditory scene analysis’ conducted by the novels in this study sees/hears them as participating in this ontological and epistemological uncertainty. Both The Return of the Native and ‘Heart of Darkness’ powerfully evoke densely enveloping closed systems that are examined in terms of their circulating sounds, ‘acoustic pictures’ raised upon the air by sighs in Hardy and whispers in Conrad. Whilst the discussion of ‘Heart of Darkness’ shows that it is an individual voice, and particularly its ‘cry’, which provides a guiding thread for Marlow, when the chapter moves on to sound in Nostromo it is the ambient noise of a historically evolving modernity that carries the theme of the reach of ‘material interests’. Sounds, conceived as units of shock, provide the agitated fabric of this novel of jolts and collisions.

Keywords:   Sound, Audition, Transmission, Location, Wave theory, Circulation, Air, Voice, Cry, Noise, Shock

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