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Sounding Modernism

Rhythm and Sonic Mediation in Modern Literature and Film

Edited by Julian Murphet, Helen Groth, Penelope Hone

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Explores the transformations of sound in modern literary and cinematic forms from the 1890s to the mid-20th century

This volume brings together a range of essays by eminent and emergent scholars working at the intersection of modern literary, cinema and sound studies. The individual studies ask what specific sonorous qualities are capable of being registered by different modern media, and how sonic transpositions and transferences across media affect the ways in which human subjects attend to modern soundscapes. Script, groove, electrical current, magnetic imprint, phonographic vibration: as the contributors show, sound traverses these and other material platforms to become an insistent ground-note of modern aesthetics, one not yet adequately integrated into critical accounts of the period. This collection also provides a commanding and wide-ranging investigation of the conditions under which modernists tapped technically into the rhythms, echoes and sonic architectures of their worlds.

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1. Introduction: Sounding Modernism 1890–1950
Part I: Writing Modern Sounds
2. On Not Listening To Modernism, Julian Murphet
3. Advocating Auricularisation: Virginia Woolf’s ‘In The Orchard’, Tom Vandevelde
Part II: Mediated Voices
4. Bottled Bands: Automatic Music and American Media Publics, Lisa Gitelman
5. How to Listen to Joyce: Gramophones, Voice and the Limits of Mediation, Helen Groth
6. Sounding Region, Writing Accent: A. G. Street and the BBC, Debra Rae Cohen
7. Partial to Opera: Sounding Willa Cather’s Empty Rooms, John Plotz
8. Elliptical Sound: Audibility and the Space of Reading, Julie Beth Napolin
Part III: Difficult Voices
9. Harsh Sounds: George Gissing’s Penetrating Literary Voice, Penelope Hone
10. Body and Soul: Modernism, Metaphysics, Rhyme, Sean Pryor
11. Listening to the Late Cantos, Kristin Grogan
Part IV: Modern Rhythm: Writing, Sound, Cinema
12. The Rhythms of Character in Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Miss Brill’, Helen Rydstrand
13. The Rhythm of the Rails: Sound and Locomotion, Laura Marcus
14. Two-step, Nerve-tap, Tanglefoot: Tapdance Typologies in Cinema, Steven Connor

About the Author

Julian Murphet is Scientia Professor in English and Film Studies at UNSW Australia. He is the author of Literature and Race in Los Angeles (2001), Multimedia Modernism (2009), and the forthcoming Faulkner’s Media Romance. He has co-edited a number of collections, including Rancière and Literature (2016), Faulkner in the Media Ecology (2015), and Modernism and Masculinity (2014), and co-edits the journal Affirmations: of the modern.

Helen Groth is Professor of English in the School of the Arts and Media at UNSW Australia. She is the author of Victorian Photography and Literary Nostalgia (2003), Moving Images: Nineteenth Century Reading and Screen Practices (2013), (with Natalya Lusty) Dreams and Modernity. A Cultural History (2013), Victorian Photography and Literary Nostalgia (2003) and the co-editor of Mindful Aesthetics: Literature and the Science of Mind (2014).

Penelope Hone recently completed her PhD in English at UNSW Australia. Her research concentrates on the novel in the nineteenth century, with a particular interest in changing conceptions of the literary voice, noise and new media. She has previously published on George Eliot.


At last, the collection sound studies has been listening for. Its full-throated intersection of the technical registers in media theory (storage versus communication) with the palpable phonic rhythms of literature and "the talkies" makes for a multi-channel and ear-opening anthology tuned to the very pulse of time-based encounters across media.

- Garrett Stewart, The University of Iowa

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