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Soundscapes in nineteenth-century Gothic short stories
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of language studies. (English Literature)
2021 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the eerie world of Gothic literature, sound represents a source of fear, anxiety, and discomfort, and it mostly affects its listeners through the invisible character of the experience. Sound is integral to nineteenth-century Gothic short stories with their panoply of liminal and polyphonic oppositions, as well as a claustrophobic feel of spaces, fearful listeners, and the return of the repressed. The meaning of sound in the perceived environment entangles discussions about the way Gothic literature represents and registers sound in its connection with space and listener. This thesis examines literary soundscapes, or a combination of sounds and sound patterns, in Gothic short stories of nineteenth-century writers Edgar Allan Poe, Samuel Warren, Matthew Phipps Shiel, Edith Nesbit, Phoebe Yates Pember, William Mudford, William Maginn, John Galt, and Charles Lever. Through close reading of the material, my study explores how sound engages with space and listener in four settings: houses, bedrooms, torture chambers, and burial grounds. By linking the auditory dimension and the spatial features, it is argued that soundscapes establish a system of communication that is essential for the formation and reconstruction of the listener’s sense of identity through empowering or disempowering acoustic trials. The four types of Gothic settings structure the dissertation, where each chapter has a story by Edgar Allan Poe as its nucleus. First I analyze the acoustic landscape of a house in its representation and influence on the listener. The acoustic diversity and multi-dimensionality of Gothic houses transgress into the imaginary acoustic landscapes and endanger the listeners. Next, I examine the private audible space of a (bed)room. The stories feature the uncanny sound of a heartbeat that becomes a destabilizing force and communicates the return of the repressed. I proceed to the interrelationship of sound, torture, and the victim in the (in)voluntary torture chambers. Finally, I focus on the burial grounds through the perspective of the protagonist confined in the limitations of the body and the surroundings. In its plurality of forms, sound becomes a key to self-image and self-assertion through the transformative acoustic experience. Gothic houses, rooms, and torture chambers represent a mutable and controlling power with an agency of living, breathing, and tormenting animated entity. The study reveals the forms of listening aggravated with physical or mental affliction that both engage with and destabilize medical frameworks. I expose temporality in Gothic soundscapes and underscore liminality as endemic both to the facets of Gothic soundscapes and the interconnection between the visual and the aural. In the coda, I highlight the reinvention of Gothic soundscapes in animated adaptations that intertwine aesthetic enjoyment and interpretative judgement.  

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå University , 2021. , p. 252
Series
Umeå studies in language and literature ; 45
Keywords [en]
soundscape, the Gothic, short story, auscultator, acousmatic sound, liminality, the uncanny
National Category
Specific Literatures
Research subject
Literature
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-183080ISBN: 978-91-7855-551-2 (electronic)ISBN: 978-91-7855-550-5 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-183080DiVA, id: diva2:1554636
Public defence
2021-06-11, H1, Humlab, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
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Available from: 2021-05-21 Created: 2021-05-17 Last updated: 2021-12-07Bibliographically approved

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Glotova, Elena

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
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