Echoes of Subjectivity: A Literary Acoustemology of the Home


Katharina Schmidt

1   Introduction


This paper explores relationships between notions of home and the auditory by investigating the home’s depiction in a literary text – Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway – while focusing on how sonic motifs are employed. Understanding sound studies as an inherently interdisciplinary project, this choice of subject is informed by the intertwining discourses and knowledges of sound studies and literary studies to show how sound studies can reveal the sonic micro-epistemologies in literary texts. At the same time, the knowledge of sound that is encapsulated in literature may enrich the practice and widen the scope of sound studies by providing both objects for study and references for discourse.[1]

Taking its cue from the enmeshment of topography and biography, physical and mental landscapes in Mrs. Dalloway, this reading borrows the concept of acoustic territories from Brandon LaBelle’s book of the same name to harness sound as a guiding metaphor for exploring Mrs. Dalloway. LaBelle defines acoustic territories not only as spaces and places, but as vectors, routes, and force fields: “As territories, I define them as movements between and among differing forces, full of multiplicity” (LaBelle 2010: xxv). This idea seems particularly suited to make the auditory dimension resonate with the metaphorical, imaginary, and performative topographies and architectures of the novel and to help articulate the sonic epistemologies of the home inherent in Mrs. Dalloway. Finally, this text develops individual sonic figures as micro-epistemologies in close readings of individual scenes to show how the specific conditions of the home are connected to reflections on ethics, selfhood, and togetherness in Mrs. Dalloway.