Book

Dumbstruck

Steven Connor

Published in print October 2000 | ISBN: 9780198184331
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191674204 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198184331.001.0001
Dumbstruck

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Why can none of us hear our own recorded voice without wincing? Why is the telephone still full of such spookiness and erotic possibility? Why does the metaphor of ventriloquism, the art of ‘seeming to speak where one is not’, speak so resonantly to our contemporary technological condition? These are the kind of questions which impel this inquisitive history of ventriloquism and the disembodied voice. This book tracks the subject from its first recorded beginnings in ancient Israel and Greece, through the fulminations of early Christian writers against the unholy (and, they believed, obscenely produced) practices of pagan divination, the aberrations of the voice in mysticism, witchcraft and possession, and the strange obsession with the vagrant figure of the ventriloquist, newly conceived as male rather than female, during the Enlightenment. It retrieves the stories of some of the most popular and versatile ventriloquists and polyphonists of the 19th century, and investigates the survival of ventriloquial delusions and desires in spiritualism and the ‘vocalic uncanny’ of technologies like telephone, radio, film, and internet.

Keywords: recorded voices; ventriloquism; disembodied voices; polyphony; vocalic uncanny; Israel; Greece; pagan divination; Enlightenment; telephone

Book.  458 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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Table of Contents

What I Say Goes in Dumbstruck

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Hoc Est Corpus in Dumbstruck

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