Literary soundscapes of the American West

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Publication Type dissertation
School or College College of Humanities
Department English
Author Driscoll, Matthew William
Title Literary soundscapes of the American West
Date 2014-08
Description Influenced by the continued growth of the interdisciplinary field of sound studies, my dissertation examines sounds and soundscapes in several prose works of Western American literature. Literary Soundscapes of the American West examines literary sounds-the collective, but varied, representations of sound, silence, and voice in literature-that represent intimate, affective, and always-changing relationships between people and places in the contemporary American West. I argue that Sherman Alexie, Cormac McCarthy, Terry Tempest Williams, and Charles Bowden use literary sounds to encourage-and potentially activate-what I call an audile mode of attention, which underscores sound as fundamental to people's understanding of place as well as their relationship to space generally. My analysis examines literary sounds that resonate in representations of specific Western locales: a Northwestern metropolis, the Southwestern redrock desert, and the U.S.-Mexican borderlands. Literary sounds do not operate identically in each of my primary texts. In fiction, such as Alexie's Indian Killer and McCarthy's The Crossing, representations of sound occupy an understated and subordinate position in the text. In contrast to these fictional works, Williams' Red and Bowden's Murder City demand that readers attend to sound because it represents local knowledge about pressing ethical concerns. In my analysis of contemporary Western literature, I employ critical regionalism, sound studies, and affect theory and argue that Alexie, McCarthy, Williams, and Bowden produce literary sounds that represent the tensions between various spatial scales (the personal, the local, the regional, and the global) in twentieth- and twenty-first century Western places. By combining the overlapping concerns of these three critical paradigms with my interest in representations of place in contemporary Western American literature, my dissertation evaluates the productive potential of excess in a selected body of literature. The particular excess that I consider here is made up of a relatively immaterial and transient form, sound and, to be more specific, sounds produced in literature. To say that sound, in everyday life or in literature, constitutes excess is not to suggest that it is not necessary to or always already resonant in our interpretations of and experiences with place and space. Rather, I argue that sounds produce excess by activating untapped potential and calling upon readers and listeners to identify in place those contingent truths and realities that escape our notice when we view place as a closed and contained form.
Type Text
Publisher University of Utah
Subject Contemporary literature; Soundscapes; West
Dissertation Institution University of Utah
Dissertation Name Doctor of Philosophy
Language eng
Rights Management Copyright © Matthew William Driscoll 2014
Format Medium application/pdf
Format Extent 509,332 bytes
Identifier etd3/id/3266
ARK ark:/87278/s6qz5k5v
Setname ir_etd
Date Created 2015-02-03
Date Modified 2017-07-03
ID 196831
Reference URL