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Stethoscopy: A Poetics of Attention and Voice

Date and Time: 
Monday, October 30, 2017. 06:00 PM - 08:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Margaret Jacks Hall Bldg 460, Terrace Room
Workshop: 
Workshop in Poetics
Meeting Description: 

Please join us at the Workshop in Poetics on Monday, October 30, 6-8pm in the Terrace Room (Bldg 460). Justin Tackett (English) will be workshopping a chapter from his dissertation titled Listening Between the Lines: Poetry and Sound Technology, 1816-1914. Professor Denise Gigante (English) will be responding. For a pre-circulated paper, please contact melihle@stanford.edu.

Mediate auscultation—the medical technique of listening to the body’s interior through the stethoscope—was devised in 1816. It was ostensibly the first form of professionalized listening, entering the Anglophone world in the 1820s, when late Romanticism was drawing to a close. Stethoscopy led to the concept of “thoracic voice,” the sound of the voice auscultated through the thorax. Not long thereafter, poetry critics coined the phrases “poetic voice” and “to find one’s voice.” These expanding concepts of voice all required special kinds of attention. This chapter explores the links between medicine and poetry, attention and voice, in the nineteenth century. I focus on John Keats and Alfred Tennyson, alongside Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Robert Bridges, and little-known Irish poet James Henry, among others.

Justin Tackett is a PhD candidate in English specializing in British and American literature of the long nineteenth century (c. 1790-1940) with a focus on poetry and sound. He is currently a Geballe Fellow at Stanford's Humanities Center, and has served as a fellow at the Smithsonian. His article, "Phonographic Hopkins: Sound, Cylinders, Silence, and 'Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves'," is forthcoming in Victorian Poetry next year.

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