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The Matter of Voice: Sensual Soundings

The Matter of Voice: Sensual Soundings

Karmen MacKendrick
Copyright Date: 2016
Published by: Fordham University
Pages: 224
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    The Matter of Voice: Sensual Soundings
    Book Description:

    Philosophers for millennia have tried to silence the physical musicality of voice in favor of the purity of ideas without matter, souls without bodies. Nevertheless, voices resonate among bodies, among texts, and across denotation and sound; they are singular, as unique as fingerprints, but irreducibly collective too. They are material, somatic, and musical. But voices are also meaningful--they give body to concepts that cannot exist in abstractions, essential to sense yet in excess of it. They can be neither reduced to neurology nor silenced in abstraction. They complicate the logos of the beginning and emphasize the enfleshing of all words. Through explorations of theology and philosophy, pedagogy, translation, and semiotics, all interwoven with song, The Matter of Voice works toward reintegrating our thinking about both speaking and authorial voice as fleshy combinings of meaning and music.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-7004-0
    Subjects: Music
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-x)
  3. Introduction: Hearing Voices (pp. 1-12)

    I came of intellectual age after authors were dead, which conveniently rendered their voices immaterial. This “death” had been given its official notice in Roland Barthes’s famous essay, “The Death of the Author,” which declared that authorial intent and biography were not central to literary criticism.¹ Such reading is too limiting, Barthes argued; context and history and the accumulation of readers added to a text layers of meaning that no author could have intended, so that the author’s word on the text’s meaning was not in fact final and absolute. Indeed—a more extreme claim—it was not to be...

  4. CHAPTER 1 The Matter of Voice (pp. 13-36)

    We’ve started to hear them already—dead authors can speak in surprisingly lively voices. I have mentioned the distinctiveness of the spoken voice. But what of the writing voice? “[I]n the language of literary criticism,” writes Cavarero, “voiceis today a technical term that indicates the peculiarity of the style. . . . This use is interesting above all for the way in which it recalls a vocal uniqueness that is implicitly understood to be removed from the acoustic sphere.”¹ This implicit understanding creates its own difficulties, and I have already noted that others imagine writing voice a bit differently....

  5. CHAPTER 2 Speaking to Learn to Listen (pp. 37-61)

    Voices come to us in the way our bodies echo and alter: we read, we hear; we acquire an accent, however hard we might try for that perfect middle-of-the-Atlantic neutrality. The embodiment of voice demands that we attend to the sonorous sense even of a text given visually. Sometimes it makes sense to read aloud; other times, at least to subvocalize. But if we simply add reading aloud to our syllabi in the current academic climate, after centuries of the devocalizing of reason and the accompanying notion that we needn’t hear in order to read, such addition becomes an oddly...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Thou Art Translated! (pp. 62-77)

    Languages have distinctive sounds. We can sometimes even recognize that a particular language is being spoken without understanding the words. They have their own music, and to shift across them must mean to sing the words a bit differently too. We may even have to translate within a tongue. Cavarero cites an instance:

    For the poetry of the English tradition … pentameter is the most apt meter. But “the hurricane does not roar in pentameter,” laments [Kamau] Brathwaite. In addition to making the English language bend to the sonorous universe of the Caribbean, the Caribbean poet must also force it...

  7. CHAPTER 4 The Voice in the Mirror (pp. 78-95)

    The myth of the original, perfect language draws us into myths of an ultimate origin, and origin myths draw us into cosmologies—by this route, especially into cosmic creation by voice. The next chapter considers the stories of Genesis more directly; this one draws out some creational as well as prayerful implications of creative vocal resonance in the work of medieval polymath Hildegard of Bingen.

    It matters who is speaking, we have seen—not in the sense that there is a who, and then there is speaking, but that speaking, like “who,” is singular and unique and relational all at...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Original Breath (pp. 96-116)

    In the beginning, God speaks.

    For all of Hildegard’s exuberance about primal song, it’s not clear that this beginning marks a very promising start for a fully corporeal sense of the voice. If we could somehow take a text by itself, out of its context and history, it might: that a divinity speaks, and so the world becomes, seems material enough. A voice that forms the world must surely give matter to meaning. But, of course, this story of Genesis enters into the long history of the Abrahamic faiths. There it encounters in subsequent millennia a slow but increasing abstraction,...

  9. CHAPTER 6 The Meaning in the Music (pp. 117-138)

    The preceding chapters might (broadly) be construed as philosophical theology. Modern and contemporary practitioners of both disciplines have tended not only to hear meaning aphonically, but to view themselves as ultimate arbiters of truth and meaning. Reemphasizing voice, returning sound to sense, might help us to undercut this particular arbitration.

    Philosophy hears toward understanding—and is confident that it can, in fact, comprehend, perhaps more thoroughly than the speaker herself.¹ Nancy asks, at the beginning of his bookListening, “Is listening something of which philosophy is capable? Or … hasn’t philosophy … substituted for listening, something else that might be...

  10. Acknowledgments (pp. 139-140)
  11. NOTES (pp. 141-174)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 175-188)
  13. INDEX (pp. 189-206)