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MSA 18: Listening in/to Modernist Texts

In his 1938 essay, "On the Fetish Character in Music and the Regression of Listening,"€ Adorno theorizes how modernity€'s emphasis on mass consumption dramatically altered listening practices, promoting what he termed "regressive listening." For him, the modern listener's passive receptivity to all music, regardless of quality or originality, detracted from his or her ability to engage in concentrated, discerning audition. This passive consumption of acoustic texts was encouraged by advances in sound reproduction technologies such as the radio. As Steven Connor explains in Beckett, Modernism and the Material Imagination, "€œ[R]adio provided more and more of an environment in which to live, and sank more and more into the background, while listening became correspondingly less focused, more peripheral, more compounded with other things" (68). Many twentieth-century texts can be read as responding to the changing acoustic climate and its new demands on the modern listener. While historically much scholarship has approached literary modernism as privileging the visual, recent critical work by Connor, Melba Cuddy-Keane, Jane A. Lewty, Dee Morris, David Nowell Smith, Garrett Stewart, David Trotter, and others has gone a long way in recovering the phonic subtexts of modernist literature.

This proposed panel seeks to extend the works of these scholars by further considering how modernist artists and writers engaged with changes in listening practices and cultures. What kind of listening is invited or required by modernist texts? Does modernist literature allow for, or even embrace, regressive listening, work against it, or challenge this concept? How did sound reproduction technologies influence the development of the modernist phonotext? How does twentieth-century literature use the written word to recreate the modern soundscape?

Topics might include, but are by no means limited to, the following:
- Modernist soundscapes
- Representations of listening in modernist literature
- The influence of sound reproduction technologies on modernist literature
- The voice/Voice in modernist literature
- Silent reading, subvocalization, and literary "€œearplay"
- Prosody in prose and poetry
- Deafness and/in modernist literature
- Sound vs. noise in modernist literature
- Radio plays and other acoustic texts
- Recorded literature
- Listening and mass consumption
- Gendered listening practices

Submit 300-word abstracts and 1-page CV to Jennifer Janechek (jennifer-yirinec@uiowa.edu) by April 10, 2016. (Please note that this is not a guaranteed panel.)

Conference Location: Pasadena, CA, United States
Conference Starts: November 17, 2016
Conference Ends: November 20, 2016

CFP Submission Deadline: April 10, 2016

For more information, contact: Jennifer Janechek

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