Ideal Presence and the Past and Present Acoustic Ecologies of Romanticism: Reader–Listener–Performers and Their Recitations and Auditory Translations

Carrie Busby (The University of Alabama)


Because acoustic ecologies occupy a central presence in William Wordsworth’s poetry, I call for consideration of the power of speech and sound in the teaching of Romantic poetry and insist that students learn the task of close listening, becoming readers–listeners–performers in their literary study. Technologies of the past and the present offer ample methods for experimenting with Romantic texts and auditory translations in terms of reciting, analyzing, translating, remixing, performing, and preserving Romantic poetry in and for the future. Sound studies using not only the linguistic treatises and recording methodologies of the past but also present-day digital tools provide us with the means to further experience and preserve literature. We should present students with the opportunity to not only experience these memorable works using their tongues and in new mediums but also analyze them as originals and translations, and therefore synthesize the imaginative renderings of the Romantic period with our present imaginative possibilities and technological capabilities, experimenting, as readers–listeners–performers, with the affective force of sound as we perceive its function, modernize expressions of the materiality of language and its association with thought, and curate diverse renderings, compositions, and analyses under the direction of poets.

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