Audiobooks, Literature, and Sound Studies: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Audiobooks, Literature, and Sound Studies

1st Edition

Edited by Matthew Rubery


248 pages

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This is the first scholarly work to examine the cultural significance of the "talking book" since the invention of the phonograph in 1877, the earliest machine to enable the reproduction of the human voice. Recent advances in sound technology make this an opportune moment to reflect on the evolution of our reading practices since this remarkable invention. Some questions addressed by the collection include: How does auditory literature adapt printed texts? What skills in close listening are necessary for its reception?

What are the social consequences of new listening technologies? In sum, the essays gathered together by this collection explore the extent to which the audiobook enables us not just to hear literature but to hear it in new ways. Bringing together a set of reflections on the enrichments and impoverishments of the reading experience brought about by developments in sound technology, this collection spans the earliest adaptations of printed texts into sound by Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and other novelists from the late nineteenth century to recordings by contemporary figures such as Toni Morrison and Barack Obama at the turn of the twenty-first century. As the voices gathered here suggest, it is time to give a hearing to one of the most talked about new media of the past century.

Table of Contents

Foreword Charles Bernstein Introduction: Talking Books, Matthew Rubery Part 1: Sound Experiments 1: The Three-Minute Victorian Novel: Remediating Dickens into Sound, Jason Camlot 2: A Library on the Air: Literary Dramatization and Orson Welles’s Mercury Theatre, James Jesson 3: The Audiographic Impulse: Doing Literature with the Tape Recorder, Jesper Olsson 4: Poetry by Phone and Phonograph: Tracing the Influence of Giorno Poetry Systems, Michael S. Hennessey 5: Soundtracking the Novel: Willy Vlautin’s Northline as Filmic Audiobook, Justin St. Clair Part 2: Close Listenings 6: Novelist as "Sound-Thief": The Audiobooks of John le Carré, Garrett Stewart 7: Hearing Hardy, Talking Tolstoy: The Audiobook Narrator’s Voice and Reader Experience, Sara Knox 8: Talking Books, Toni Morrison, and the Transformation of Narrative Authority: Two Frameworks, K. C. Harrisson 9: Obama’s Voices: Performance and Politics on the Dreams from My Father Audiobook, Jeffrey Severs 10: Bedtime Storytelling Revisited: Le Père Castor and Children’s Audiobooks, Brigitte Ouvry-Vial 11: Learning from LibriVox, Michael Hancher 12: A Preliminary Phenomenology of the Audiobook, D. E. Wittkower

About the Editor

Matthew Rubery is Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author of The Novelty of Newspapers: Victorian Fiction after the Invention of the News (Oxford, 2009), which won the European Society for the Study of English (ESSE) First Book Award 2010. His article "Play It Again, Sam Weller: New Digital Audiobooks and Old Ways of Reading" appeared in the Journal of Victorian Culture in 2008.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Cultural and Media Studies

Cultural and media studies are now well-established as important academic disciplines and are inspiring new research into a wide range of pertinent issues. This series presents outstanding research in these subjects, helping to shape the direction of future inquiry.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies