With Ears Taut to Hear: Sound Recording and Twentieth-Century American Literature


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


English & Comparative Literature


This dissertation reveals the sustained engagement between American literature and sound reproduction technologies during the twentieth century. Through an analysis of writers such as Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), John Dos Passos (1896-1970), Alan Lomax (1915-2002), Sidney Bechet (1897-1959), Langston Hughes (1902-1967), Amiri Baraka (b. 1934), Tom Wolfe (b. 1931), William S. Burroughs (1914-1997), and August Wilson (1945-2005), it explores how literature theorizes sound and directly engages with sound reproduction technologies either as a mode of composition or inspiration to extend formal techniques. The project contends that literary innovations were shaped by phonographic technologies, and that texts played a key role in tutoring the ear to listen amidst a modern multimedia environment.