Hearing Things: The Work of Sound in Literature

Hearing Things: The Work of Sound in Literature

by Angela Leighton


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Hearing Things is a meditation on sound’s work in literature. Drawing on critical works and the commentaries of many poets and novelists who have paid close attention to the role of the ear in writing and reading, Angela Leighton offers a reconsideration of literature itself as an exercise in hearing.

An established critic and poet, Leighton explains how we listen to the printed word, while showing how writers use the expressivity of sound on the silent page. Although her focus is largely on poets—Alfred Tennyson, W. B. Yeats, Robert Frost, Walter de la Mare, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, Jorie Graham, and Alice Oswald—Leighton’s scope includes novels, letters, and philosophical writings as well. Her argument is grounded in the specificity of the text under discussion, but one important message emerges from the whole: literature by its very nature commands listening, and listening is a form of understanding that has often been overlooked. Hearing Things offers a renewed call for the kind of criticism that, avoiding the programmatic or purely ideological, remains alert to the work of sound in every literary text.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674983496
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 05/07/2018
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 594,823
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Angela Leighton is Professor of English and Senior Research Fellow at Trinity College, University of Cambridge.

Table of Contents

Sound's Work: An Introduction 1

1 Listening Thresholds 19

2 Tennyson's Hum 49

3 Humming Tennyson: Christina Rossetti and Virginia Woolf 70

4 Pennies and Horseplay: W. B. Yeats's Recalls 96

5 "Coo-ee": Calling Walter de la Mare, Edward Thomas, Robert Frost 117

6 A Book, a Face, a Phantom: Walter de la Mare's "The Green Room" 145

7 Hearing Something: Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, Jorie Graham 158

8 "Wherever You Listen From": W. S. Graham's Art of the Letter 181

9 Incarnations in the Ear: Hearing Presence in Les Murray 203

10 Justifying Time in Ticks and Tocks 226

11 Poetry's Knowing: So What Do We Know? 251

Bibliography 273

Acknowledgments 287

Index 291

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