New Book | Resounding the Sublime

Posted in books by Editor on June 20, 2021

From Penn Press:

Miranda Eva Stanyon, Resounding the Sublime: Music in English and German Literature and Aesthetic Theory, 1670–1850 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020), 304 pages, ISBN: 978-0812253085, $75.

What does the sublime sound like? Harmonious, discordant, noisy, rustling, silent? Miranda Eva Stanyon rereads and resounds this crucial aesthetic category in English and German literatures of the long eighteenth century from a musical perspective and shows how sonorous sublimes lay at the heart of a central and transformative discourse. For Enlightenment and Romantic era listeners, the musical sublime represented a sonic encounter of the most extreme kind, one that tested what humans were capable of feeling, imagining, thinking, and therefore becoming.

The sublime and music have not always sung from the same hymn sheet, Stanyon observes. She charts an antagonistic intimacy between the two, from the sublime’s rise to prominence in the later seventeenth century, through the upheavals associated with Kant in the late eighteenth century, and their reverberations in the nineteenth. Offering readings of canonical texts by Longinus, Dryden, Burke, Klopstock, Herder, Coleridge, De Quincey, and others alongside lesser-known figures, she shows how the literary sublime was inextricable from musical culture, from folksongs and ballads to psalmody, polychoral sacred music, and opera. Deeply interdisciplinary, Resounding the Sublime draws literature into dialogue with sound studies, musicology, and intellectual and cultural history to offer new perspectives on the sublime as a phenomenon which crossed media, disciplines, and cultures.

An interdisciplinary study of sound in history, the book recovers varieties of the sublime crucial for understanding both the period it covers and the genealogy of modern and postmodern aesthetic discourses. In resounding the sublime, Stanyon reveals a phenomenon which was always already resonant. The sublime emerges not only as the aesthetic of the violently powerful, a-rational, or unrepresentable, but as a variegated discourse with competing dissonant, harmonious, rustling, noisy, and silent strains, one in which music and sound illustrate deep divisions over issues of power, reason, and representation.

Miranda Eva Stanyon is Lecturer in Comparative Literature at King’s College London and Research Fellow in English Literature at the University of Melbourne.


List of Abbreviations
Note on Translations and References


Part I. He Rais’d a Mortal to the Skies; She Drew an Angel Down: English Literature, ca. 1670–1760
1  Music as a ‘Bastard Imitation of Persuasion’? Power and Legitimacy in Dryden and Dennis
2  ‘What Passion Cannot Musick Raise and Quell!’ Passionate and Dispassionate Sublimity with the Hillarians and Handelians

Part II. Hissing Snakes and Angelic Hosts: German Literature, ca. 1720–1770
3  Reforming Aesthetics: Bodmer and Breitinger’s Anti-Musical Sublime
4  Klopstock, Rustling, and the Antiphonal Sublime

Part III. Sublime Beauty and the Wrath of the Organ: English and German Literature, ca. 1770–1850
5  The Beauty of the Infinite: Herder’s Sublimely-Beautiful, Beautifully-Sublime Music
6  The Terror of the Infinite: Thomas De Quincy’s Reverberations





New Book | The Sculpted Ear

Posted in books by Editor on June 20, 2021

From The Pennsylvania State UP:

Ryan McCormack, The Sculpted Ear: Aurality and Statuary in the West (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2020), 224 pages, ISBN: 978-0271086927 (hardcover), $90 / ISBN: 978-0271086934 (paperback), $33.

Sound and statuary have had a complicated relationship in Western aesthetic thought since antiquity. Taking as its focus the sounding statue—a type of anthropocentric statue that invites the viewer to imagine sounds the statue might make—The Sculpted Ear rethinks this relationship in light of discourses on aurality emerging within the field of sound studies. Ryan McCormack argues that the sounding statue is best thought of not as an aesthetic object but as an event heard by people and subsequently conceptualized into being through acts of writing and performance.

Constructing a history in which hearing plays an integral role in ideas about anthropocentric statuary, McCormack begins with the ancient sculpture of Laocoön before moving to a discussion of the early modern automaton known as Tipu’s Tiger and the statue of the Commendatore in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Finally, he examines statues of people from the present and the past, including the singer Josephine Baker, the violinist Aleksandar Nikolov, and the actor Bob Newhart—with each case touching on some of the issues that have historically plagued the aesthetic viability of the sounding statue. McCormack convincingly demonstrates how sounding statues have served as important precursors and continuing contributors to modern ideas about the ontology of sound, technologies of sound reproduction, and performance practices blurring traditional divides between music, sculpture, and the other arts.

A compelling narrative that illuminates the stories of individual sculptural objects and the audiences that hear them, this book will appeal to anyone interested in the connections between aurality and statues in the Western world, in particular scholars and students of sound studies and sensory history.

Ryan McCormack is a writer and independent scholar based in Knoxville, Tennessee.



Introduction: Elvis Leaves the Building
1  Animation Introduces Animation
2  Breathing Voice into Laocoön’s Mouth
3  Imperial Possessions
4  Hearing a Stone Man
5  Aural Skins
6  Now You Have to Go, Comrade
7  Museums of Resonance
Conclusion: I Now Present Sergei Rachmaninoff


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