My research situates literature’s continuous transition to digital forms of communication in the history of intermedial aesthetics. I support this work with an interdisciplinary methodology that draws on critical and literary theory, media studies, and new musicology. By discussing underrepresented authors and musicians, my work proposes a digital transmission of cultural heritage that is inclusive of sexual and racial minorities.
My book manuscript, Soundscapes of the Literary Voice, examines voices through an interdisciplinary methodology. It stems from my doctoral dissertation, which investigates resounding sonorous voices from Antiquity to the present by way of the figure of Orpheus. The book opens with a summary of theoretical approaches to the relations between literature and music as symbolic media, and introduces the problem of the voice’s mobility from one art form to the other. I then trace a similar symbolic conception of the voice in literary and critical theory throughout the twentieth century. The book moves on to a material definition of intermediality, focuses on the remediation of voices, and discusses the significant consequences for literature of this shift from symbolic to material mediality. Research toward this book was supported by fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and from the Richard J. Schmeelk Foundation.
Progressing from narrative to poetics, the arc of Soundscapes of the Literary Voice performs the book’s central argument: in a post-hermeneutical world, narratives have given way to materials; hence vocality is of increasing relevance in literary studies. The book’s central contribution is to provide a literary theory of voice that bridges the gap between symbolic art forms of the past and the materiality of literature in the current media landscape. Work on the manuscript is underway, and I will be submitting book proposals shortly. My theoretical work on vocal materiality has also interested interdisciplinary researchers in opera studies.
The book builds on my published work on sonorous voices. My article on voice and theories of immersion in new media was published in the International Journal of Performance Art and Digital Media (2012). A second article on The Poems of Ossian and their musical adaptation in Massenet’s opera, Werther, was published in the Journal of Musicological Research (2017). Following its publication, I was invited to give a lecture in Comparative Literature and Musicology at Cornell University. An article on Xavier Dolan’s film Mommy appeared in the film journal Synoptique (2016, in French) and in the European Journal of American Studies (2017). It examines how the protagonist interacts with the pervasiveness of mediated sound.
I have started work on a second research project titled Posthumanist Vocality. While this project continues to draw on my work in voice studies, it also analyzes visual representations of animals in literature, opera, and film. For posthumanism informed by animal studies, the voice is the marker that draws the anthropocentric line excluding and invalidating other animal forms of communication and consciousness. But posthumanism is also indebted to technology studies. The twenty-first century’s technocultures require a coming to terms with the displacement of contemporary human interactions through new media. Traditionally, the voice has represented these displacements (echoes and other acousmatic voices) and, as such, has enabled our identification with new technologies. My research interrogates the fascinating paradox vocality opens within posthumanism—between the animal and the technological—in order to address its broad implications for the inclusion of the nonhuman into a community of being. This work was funded by SSHRC.
Publication of this research is underway. The Journal of Aesthetics and Culture published a comparative essay on technology, mimesis and embodiment (2015). A book chapter titled “Posthumanist Voices in Literature and Opera” in the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Imagination is in press (2019). As co-guest editor, I recently submitted a special issue on vocal remediation and embodiment in opera (2019). I am preparing book chapter to an anthology on voice and new materialisms. It will compare the representation of animals in literature with recent productions of eighteenth-century opera (2021). At the American Comparative Literature Association’s annual congress, I have convened panels on “Posthumanist Vocality” (2016) on “Vocal Remediation and Embodiment” (2017), and proposed the panel “Musical Affects and Technics” (2019). Furthermore, my work on intermedial voices has prompted me to explore the potential of this research for projects in the digital humanities. At the end of this cycle of publications, I will further study the processes of digital editing. This work will inform a new research project on the use of vocal and musical archives in the production of electronic literature.
My research aims to create continuity of reception between cultural heritage and new forms of literary dissemination, while advocating for the inclusion of minorities and the expansion of community to all living things. It situates literary and critical theory at the heart of an ongoing digital transition to new forms of oral communication. This research also informs my investigation into how human forms of communication predicated on voice contribute to our exclusion from, and inclusion in, our environment.