Date of Degree

2-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

English

Advisor

Joan Richardson

Committee Members

David Reynolds

Cathy N. Davidson

Alan Vardy

Subject Categories

American Literature | Epistemology | Other Music | Women's Studies

Keywords

sound, sound studies, Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Transcendentalism, Ecocriticism, New Materialism

Abstract

“Sound Ecologies: Music and Vibration in 19th-Century American Literature” provides the first major study of human and nonhuman music and sound in the writings of three major writers and thought-leaders, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and their contemporaries. Katopodis theorizes music and sound as vibration to offer a more inclusive exploration of vibrating natural and social soundscapes and their effects on American literature and culture. Katopodis argues that a vibrational epistemology—ways of feeling and sensing, learning and knowing through perceiving vibration—shaped how nineteenth-century American writers thought of themselves, their environment, and their nation before technological advancements allowed Americans literally to hear their own voices and fully realize their sound effects. Katopodis shows that we in the humanities can use sound studies to dig through a rich archive of sounds in our literary history, from the howling wilderness to “bombs bursting in air.” Moreover, she demonstrates that sound is not only a sensory experience or event in literature; it is also a tool used to spark activism and sociopolitical change.

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