Editor’s Note: Welcome to Sounding Out!‘s fall forum titled “Sound and Play,” where we ask how sound studies, as a discipline, can help us to think through several canonical perspectives on play. While Johan Huizinga had once argued that play is the primeval foundation from which all culture has sprung, it is important to ask where sound fits into this construction of culture; does it too have the potential to liberate or re-entrench our social worlds? SO!’s new regular contributor Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo notes how audio games, like Papa Sangre, often use sound as a gimmick to engage players, and considers the politics of this feint. For whom are audio games immersive, and how does the experience serve to further marginalize certain people or disadvantaged groups?–AT
Immersion is a problem at the heart of sound studies. As Frances Dyson (2009) suggests in Sounding New Media, “Sound is the immersive medium par excellence. Three dimensional, interactive and synesthetic, perceived in the here and now of an embodied space, sound returns to the listener the very same qualities that media mediates…Sound surrounds” (4). Alternately, in the context of games studies (a field that is increasingly engaged with sound studies), issues of sound and immersion have most recently been addressed in terms of instrumental potentialities, historical developments, and technical constraints. Some notable examples include Sander Huiberts’ (2010) M.A. thesis entitled “Captivating Sound: The Role of Audio Immersion for Computer Games,” in which he details technical and philosophical frames of immersion as they relate to the audio of a variety of computer games, and an article by Aaron Oldenburg (2013) entitled “Sonic Mechanics: Audio as Gameplay,” in which he situates the immersive aspects of audio-gameplay within contemporaneous experimental art movements. This research provokes the question: How do those who develop these games construct the idea of immersion through game design and what does this mean for users who challenge this construct? Specifically I would like to challenge Dyson’s claim that sound really is “the immersive medium par excellence” by considering how the concept of immersion in audio-based gameplay can be tied to privileged notions of character and game development.
In order to investigate this problem, I decided to play an audio game and document my daily experiences on a WordPress blog. Based on its simulation of 3D audio Papa Sangre was the first game that came to mind. I also selected the game because of its accessibility; unlike the audio game Deep Sea, which is celebrated for its immersive capacities but is only playable by request at The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment, Papa Sangre is purchasable as an app for $2.99 and can be played on an iPhone, iPad or iPod. Papa Sangre helps us to consider new possibilities for what is meant by virtual space and it serves as a useful tool for pushing back against essentialisms of “immersion” when talking sound and virtual space.
Papa Sangre is comprised of 25 levels, the completion of which leads player incrementally closer towards the palace of Papa Sangre, a man who has kidnapped a close friend of the protagonist. The game boasts real time binaural audio, meaning that the game’s diegetic sounds (sounds that the character in the game world can “hear”) pan across the player’s headphones in relation to the movement of the game’s protagonist. The objective of each level is to locate and collect musical notes that are scattered through the game’s many topographies while avoiding any number of enemies and obstacles, of course.
A commercial success, Papa Sangre has been named “Game of the Week” by Apple, received a 9/10 rating from IGN, a top review from 148apps, and many positive reviews from fans. Gamezebo concludes an extremely positive review of Papa Sangre by calling it “a completely unique experience. It’s tense and horrifying and never lets you relax. By focusing on one aspect of the game so thoroughly, the developers have managed to create something that does one thing really, really well…Just make sure to play with the lights on.” This commercial attention has yielded academic feedback as well. In a paper entitled “Towards an analysis of Papa Sangre, an audio-only game for the iPhone/iPad,” Andrew Hugill (2012) celebrates games like Papa Sangre for providing “an excellent opportunity for the development of a new framework for electroacoustic music analysis.” Despite such attention–and perhaps because of it–I argue that Papa Sangre deserves a critical second listen.
Between February and April of 2012, I played Papa Sangre several times a day and detailed the auditory environments of the game in my blog posts. However, by the time I reached the final level, I still wasn’t sure how to answer my initial question. Had Papa Sangre really engendered a novel experience or it could simply be thought of as a video game with no video? I noted in my final post:
I am realizing that what makes the audio gaming experience seem so different from the experience of playing video games is the perception that the virtual space, the game itself, only exists through me. The “space” filled by the levels and characters within the game only exists between my ears after it is projected through the headphones and then I extend this world through my limbs to my extremities, which feeds back into the game through the touch screen interface, moving in a loop like an electric current…Headphones are truly a necessity in order to beat the game, and in putting them on, the user becomes the engine through which the game comes to life…When I play video games, even the ones that utilize a first-person perspective, I feel like the game space exists outside of me, or rather ahead of me, and it is through the controller that I am able to project my limbs forward into the game world, which in turn structures how I orient my body. Video game spaces of course, do not exist outside of me, as I need my eyes and ears to interpret the light waves and sound waves that travel back from the screen, but I suppose what matters here is not what is actually happening, but how what is happening is perceived by the user. Audio games have the potential to engender completely different gaming experiences because they make the user feel like he or she is the platform through which the game-space is actualized.
Upon further reflection, however, I recognize that Papa Sangre creates an environment designed to be immersive only to certain kinds of users. A close reading of Papa Sangre reveals bias against both female and disabled players.
Take Papa Sangre’s problematic relationship with blindness. The protagonist is not a visually impaired individual operating in a horrifying new world, but rather a sighted individual who is thrust into a world that is horrifying by virtue of its darkness. The first level of the game is simply entitled “In the Dark.” When the female guide first appears to the protagonist in that same level, she states:
Here you are in the land of the dead, the realm ruled by Papa Sangre…In this underworld it is pitch dark. You cannot see a thing; you can’t even see me, a fluttery watery thing here to help you. But you can listen and move…You must learn how to see with your ears. You will need these powers to save the soul in peril and make your way to the light.
Note the conversation between 3:19 and 3:56.
The game envisions an audience who find blindness to be necessarily terrifying. By equating an inability to see with death and fear, developers are intensifying popular horror genre tropes that diminish the lived experiences of those with visual impairments and unquestioningly present blindness as a problem to overcome. Rather than challenging the relationship between blindness and vulnerability that horror-game developers fetishize, Papa Sangre misses the opportunity to present a visually impaired protagonist who is not crippled by his or her disability.
Disconcertingly, audio games have been tied to game accessibility efforts by developers and players alike for many years. In a 2008 interview Kenji Eno, founder of WARP (a company that specialized in audio games in the late 90s), claimed his interactions with visually impaired gamers yielded a desire to produce audio games. Similarly forums like audiogames.net showcase users and developers interested in games that cater to gamers with impaired vision.
In terms of its actual game-play, PapaSangre is navigable without visual cues. After playing the game for just two weeks I was able to explore each level with my eyes closed. Still, the ease with which gamers can play the game without looking at the screen does not negate the tension caused by recycled depictions of disability that are in many ways built into storyline’s foundation.
The game also fails to engage gender in any complexity. Although the main character’s appearance is never shown, the protagonist is aurally gendered male. Most notable are the deep grunting noises made when he falls to the ground. For me, this acted as a barrier to imagining a fully embodied virtual experience. Those deep grunts revealed many assumptions the designers must have considered about the imagined and perhaps intended audience of the game. While lack of diversity is certainly an issue at the heart of all entertainment media, Papa Sangre‘s oversight directly contradicts the message of the game, wherein the putative goal is to experience an environment that enhances one’s sense of self within the virtual space.
On October 31st, 2013, Somethin’ Else will release Papa Sangre II. A quick look at the trailer suggests that the developers’ have not changed the formula. The 46-second clip warns that the game is “powered by your fear” after noting, “This Halloween, you are dead.”
It appears that an inability to see is still deeply connected with notions of fear and death in the game’s sequel. This does not have to be the case. Why not design a game where impairment is not framed as a hindrance or source of fear? Why not build a game with the option to choose between different sounding voice actors and actresses? Despite its popularity, however, Papa Sangre is by no means representative of general trends across the spectrum of audio-based game design. Oldenburg (2013) points out that over the past decade many independent game developers have been designing experimental “blind games” that eschew themes and representations found in popular video games in favor of the abstract relationships between diegetic sound and in-game movement.
Whether or not they eventually consider the social politics of gaming, Papa Sangre’s developers already send a clear message to all gamers by hardwiring disability and gender into both versions of the game while promoting a limited image of “immersion.” Hopefully as game designers Somethin’ Else grow in popularity and prestige, future developers that use the “Papa Engine” will be more cognizant of the privilege and discrimination embedded in the sonic cues of its framework. Until then, if you are not a sighted male gamer, you must prepare yourself to be immersed in constant aural cues that this experience, like so many others, was not designed with you in mind.
Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo is a PhD student in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Cornell University. Since completing a senior thesis on digital music software, tacit knowledge, and gender under the guidance of Trevor Pinch, she has become interested in pursuing research in the emergent field of sound studies. She hopes to combine her passion for music with her academic interests in technological systems, bodies, politics and practices that construct and are constructed by sound. More specifically she would like to examine the politics surrounding low-income community studios, as well as the uses of sound in (or as) electronic games. In her free time she produces hip hop beats and raps under the moniker Sammus (based on the video game character, Samus Aran, from the popular Metroid franchise).
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Goalball: Sport, Silence, and Spectatorship– Melissa Helquist
Editor’s Note: Today, SO! kicks off our summer series on “Sound and Sport,” an interrogation of the roles that sound and listening play in the interconnected aspects of many sports: athletic skill, spectatorial experience, laws of physics challenged and exploited, and politics expressed and created. Often, the true play in sports involves power–and sound is a key venue to help us understand its flows and snags, and parse out the actual winners and losers. And, perhaps more directly than other venues, sports is a heightened arena that helps us understand just how important sound is in our everyday lives, even if (and especially because) we take it for granted.
One of my favorite personal “sports metaphors” for sounds’ unacknowledged centrality involves the precise 3.5 seconds I snowboarded with an iPod before I hit an ice patch full speed and had one of the worst falls I have suffered in my 15+ years of the sport. While I was laying on the hard packed snow gasping for breath and trying to piece together what happened, I realized exactly how much I depended on my listening to provide me with crucial, even-life saving, information. With my ears overwhelmed with treble-y punk, I had charged straight into an icepatch that I would have deftly avoided as soon as I heard the inevitable and unmistakeable scratching sound signalling its location. That kinesthetic lesson has continued to inform my everyday, every day since it happened and has led me to ever deeper understandings about sound’s power and the various forms of power that it clarifies–and are clarified by it in turn. I hope that this series will do the same for you, but without the blood and the bruises, even as some of our writers will remind you about the complex and dubious relationship sports can draw between “pain” and “gain.”
Batting first up on our line-up is Melissa Helquist, who describes how the Paralympic sport Goalball challenges the norms of the spectator/athlete relationship. Look for a post on Muhammad Ali in June (Tara Betts), skateboarding in July (Josh Ottum) and an all-out Olympic extravaganza in August, including a podcast discussing the sonic transformations of Brazil’s favelas in anticipation of the world’s ears in 2016 (Andrea Medrado). This summer, it is Sounding Out! FTW. --J. Stoever-Ackerman, Editor-in-Chief
it’s oh so quiet
it’s oh so still
you’re all alone
and so peaceful until
you ring the bell
you shout and yell
hi ho ho
you broke the spell
–Bjork, “It’s Oh So Quiet”
During the London 2012 Olympics, the Copper Box venue, which hosted handball, was dubbed “the box that rocks.” The moniker was also, perhaps, a way to drum up interest in handball, a still obscure sport. And indeed, raucous spectators and the pulse and bounce of balls and shoes created a sonic spectacle.
When the Paralympics began a few weeks later, much was made of the transformation of “the box that rocks” into “the box that rocks you to sleep.” The game that supposedly will rock you to sleep is Goalball.
Goalball is a 3-a-side game, played in two 12-minute halves. The offensive team rockets the ball down the court (it must be rolling by mid-court), trying to gain the low and wide net on the other side. As the ball rolls toward the net, the defending players lie on their sides in front of the net, blocking the ball with their bodies. As the ball is pummeled back and forth across the court, it jingles—a simple, clear bell emanating from eight holes in the ball’s surface. In this sport, sound is quite literally a game changer.
All goalball players are blind or low vison and wear blackout eyeshades to equalize the playing field and to ensure that any residual vision doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay’s sound. A pre-game equipment check includes referees ensuring that eyeshades don’t let in any light. Penalties include touching one’s eyeshades or making noises that disrupt the other team’s ability to hear the movement of the ball.
Goalball, a game first invented as a way to rehabilitate soldiers blinded in WWII, has been a Paralympic sport since 1976. It is one of the few sports designed specifically for blind athletes, rather than adapted from an existing sport. It is a game of sound and touch, a contrast to the visual perception typically associated with team-based ball games. The game, like many others in the Paralympics, expands the sensory experience of sport. The court’s borders are demarcated with tape-covered twine. Sonically, players orient themselves by calling out the position of the on-coming ball, rapping knuckles on the floor, and of course the jingle of the ball.
The game is high impact; at the Paralympic level, the ball is thrown at speeds up to 60mph. Players launch the ball with high-velocity spins, something like a cross between a discus throw and bowling. Defenders block the ball with their entire bodies—hands, feet, torso. The game is intense, but it is also quiet.
The players’ reliance on sound demands new expectations of the audience. As spectators, we are watchers, but we are also noisemakers—shouters, shriekers, trashtalkers. Goalball spectators can (and do) cheer when a goal is scored, but when gameplay begins, silence is the rule. Before gameplay begins, referees demand, “Quiet Please!”
The Copper Box “was quite specifically designed to achieve a low background noise level so the blind athletes could play” (Soundscape, Issue 3, 38), enabling the venue to be transformed into an atypical space for the sound of sport and spectatorship, a place to challenge our assumptions and expectations.
Goalball spectatorship doesn’t demand pure silence, but it is not the unfettered cacophony that we often expect in sports spectatorship. At the London 2012 Paralympics, Bjork’s “It’s So Quiet” was played during breaks in gameplay to remind spectators of their obligation. The song’s ebb and flow of silence and exuberance captures the sonic rhythm of Goalball, its pulsing cadence of silent attention and energetic eruption.
The nickname, “the box that rocks you to sleep” captures the discomfort spectators may have with Goalball’s soundscape. The silence during play is tense, but the scoring of a goal offers a sudden release. Spectators do not create a persistent cacophony, but rather a pulse, a constant pattern of lull and explosion. The silence of Goalball can feel disconcerting for spectators unfamiliar with the game. The sound of the crowd—the cheers, the clapping, the screams, the groans, the chants–often seem fundamental to the experience of sport.
Silent spectatorship, of course, is an expectation for other sporting events such as golf and tennis. Here, the demand for silence is linked ostensibly to concentration, but also invokes questions of tradition, class, and (in the case of tennis) gender. These sports are individualized demonstrations of skill, and we are admirers, observers.
Team sports invite identification from the crowd. We extend ourselves, making ourselves part of the team, often through sonic exuberance. Speaking about the crowd sounds of the London Olympics, Mike Goldsmith, author of Discord, notes:
Individual athletes commented that the crowd sound was a great source of energy to then, but could also distract. Their comments suggested that some of them used the crowd sound as a resource, that they could tap into or not as the moment demanded (Soundscape, Issue 3, 36).
Sound can feel like participation. Through sound, we make ourselves part of the game, cheering to support our team, hollering to distract a shot. Sound can make sport feel communal, and thus silence can feel like separation, a wall between spectator and team.
But the seeming silence of Goalball spectatorship offers an opportunity to pay attention to the sound of play, sounds that often get subsumed by the roar of the crowd. The meeting of disability and sport offers a “prime space to reread and rewrite culture’s makings” (Tanya Titchkosky, Reading and Writing Disability Differently, 2007), a space to hear sport differently. The culture of sport is rife with ableist assumptions about how we move, how we watch, how we play. Even when sound is part of sport, it is often an afterthought, an addition—sound might be distracting, it may affect play, but the center sensory preoccupation of sport is frequently visual. We watch, we spectate, we keep our eye on the ball. Sport is sight, but it is also sound. Spectatorship is raucous, but it is also silent.
zing boom shhhh.
Featured Image, “Goal Ball” by Flickr User BLac
Melissa Helquist is an Associate Professor of English at Salt Lake Community College and a PhD Candidate in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University. Her dissertation research focuses on digital literacy and blindness and explores the use of sound to read, write, and interpret images. She is a 2012-13 HASTAC scholar and the recipient of a 2012-2013 CCCC Research Initiative Grant. She lives in Salt Lake City, where she hikes, camps, and canoes with her husband and daughter.
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Lastly, Jennifer, regular contributor Osvaldo Oyola, and I will be presenting at this year’s MLA. Jennifer is participating in a roundtable Saturday at 3:30; look out for session #588, “Race and Poetics: On Aesthetic Practice in Ethnic Studies,” which considers cultural difference as seen in different genres and media. Osvaldo is presenting on Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in session #97, “American Linguistic Plurality.” I will be presenting at a non-sound-studies panel on Friday at noon titled “How Did I Get Here? Our ‘Altac’ Jobs” (s#270). My topic will be how I moved from an adjuncting job to an alternative academic position and how this moved changed my ideas of a career in academia.
If you are not present at MLA, please follow along via Twitter! You can check out the #MLA13 hashtag, but if you’re interested in a particular session from the ones below, you can also search on Twitter for the session number during its scheduled time. You can also check out the conference action by following the official Sounding Out! twitter account (commandeered by our Editor-in-Chief) or following my personal account, @literarychica, for our live-tweets from MLA 2013.
Please comment to let us know what you think–both before and after MLA 2012. If I somehow missed you or your panel in this round up, please let me know!: firstname.lastname@example.org
Liana M. Silva is co-founder and Managing Editor of Sounding Out!.
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THURSDAY, January 3
Thursday, January 3
.3. Evaluating Digital Work for Tenure and Promotion: A Workshop for Evaluators and Candidates
Republic A, Sheraton
Program arranged by the MLA Office of Programs. Presiding: Alison Byerly, Middlebury Coll.; Kathleen Fitzpatrick, MLA; Katherine A. Rowe, Bryn Mawr Coll.
Facilitated discussion about evaluating work in digital media (e.g., scholarly
editions, databases, digital mapping projects, born- digital creative or scholarly
work). Designed for both creators of digital materials and administrators
or colleagues who evaluate those materials, the workshop will propose
strategies for documenting, presenting, and evaluating such work.
22. Expanding Access: Building Bridges within Digital Humanities
A special session.
Presiding: Trent M. Kays, Univ. of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Lee Skallerup Bessette, Morehead State Univ.
Marc Fortin, Queen’s Univ.
Alexander Gil, Univ. of Virginia
Brian Larson, Univ. of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Sophie Marcotte, Concordia Univ.
Ernesto Priego, London, England
36. Languages of the Occupy Movement
Program arranged by the Division on Language and Society. Presiding: Frank Farmer, Univ. of Kansas
Corinne Seals, Georgetown Univ., “Examining the Linguistic Landscape of Occupy”
Corey J. Frost, New Jersey City Univ., “Occupy and Rhetorics of Amplification”
Keith Spencer, Carnegie Mellon Univ., “Class, Race, and the ‘Common Man’: Interviews with Occupy Pittsburgh”
Respondent: Frank Farmer
40. Hearing and Seeing Anew: Ralph Ellison’s Aural and Visual ;8Registers
Beacon A, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Horace Porter, Univ. of Iowa
Shanna Greene Benjamin, Grinnell Coll. “Listening inside a Glass Box: Mary Rambo’s Lessons for Invisible Man”
Herman Beavers, Univ. of Pennsylvania, “The Noisy Lostness: Oppositionality and Acousmatic Subjectivity in Invisible Man”
Lena Michelle Hill, Univ. of Iowa, “Silent Sights of Fatherhood in Three Days before the Shooting…”
Respondent: Kenneth W. Warren, Univ. of Chicago
94. Modernism and the Senses
Beacon D, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Alex Niven, Univ. of Oxford; Stephen Ross, Univ. of Oxford, Saint John’s Coll.
Jonathan Day, Univ. of Oxford, Saint John’s Coll. “Cognitive Realism and the Problem of Qualia”
Matt Langione, Univ. of California, Berkeley, “Modernizing Modernism: Intentionality, Neuroscience, and the Sense of Modernist Poetry”
97. American Linguistic Plurality
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Literature of the United States in Languages Other Than English. Presiding: Heidi Kathleen Kim,Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Audrey Wu Clark,United States Naval Acad., “Dialects of Regionalist Modernism in Sui Sin Far’s Mrs. Spring Fragrance”
Benjamin A. Railton, Fitchburg State Univ., “Vocal Color: Recovering an Alternative, Multilingual American Literary Realism”
Osvaldo Oyola, Binghamton Univ., State Univ. of New York, “Traduciendo de el Dork: Cultural and Lingual Syncretism in Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,”
Melissa Dennihy, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York “Hybrid Tongues: Linguistic Innovations and Inventions in Contemporary Multiethnic United States Literature”
102. Digital Diasporas
Public Garden, Sheraton
Program arranged by the Division on Black American Literature and Culture. Presiding: Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Stanford Univ.
Corrie Claiborne, Morehouse Coll., “Living Word”
Adam Banks, Univ. of Kentucky, “Digital Griots”
Marcyliena Morgan, Harvard Univ., “Hip- Hop Archives”
107. The Linguistic Construction of Narrative Space
Program arranged by the Division on Linguistic Approaches to Literature. Presiding: Monika Fludernik, Univ. of Freiburg
Robert Troyer, Western Oregon Univ., “Locating Action in the Postapocalyptic Text World of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road”
Birgitta Svensson, Stockholm Univ., “Acting, Being, Sensing, and Saying: Analyzing Characters with a Functional Language Approach,”
Pauline Bleuse, Grand Valley State Univ., “Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange; or, The Use of an Unfamiliar Language to Relate Controversy”
125. Translating for (and from) the Italian Screen: Dubbing and Subtitles
Program arranged by the American Association for Italian Studies. Presiding: Philip Balma, Univ. of Connecticut, Storrs
Anna Belladelli, Univ. of Verona, “Misrepresentations and Re- representations of Otherness in the Italian Dubbing of United States TV Series,”
Giulia Centineo, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz “Dubbing Hollywood and Difference,”
Daniele Fioretti, Miami Univ., Oxford, “Qualunquista Equals Socialist? Political Issues in the Subtitling of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s La ricotta,”
129. Teaching in the Shallows: Reading, Writing, and Teaching in the Digital Age
A special session. Presiding: Robert R. Bleil, Coll. of Coastal Georgia; Jennifer Gray, Coll. of Coastal Georgia.
Speakers: Susan Cook, Southern New Hampshire Univ.; Christopher Dickman, Saint Louis Univ.; T. Geiger, Syracuse Univ.; Jennifer Gray; Matthew Parfitt, Boston Univ.; James Sanchez, Texas Christian Univ.
Respondent: Robert R. Bleil
Nicholas Carr’s 2008 article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” and his 2010 book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains argue that the paradigms of our digital lives have shifted significantly in two decades of living life online. This roundtable unites teachers of composition and literature to explore cultural, psychological, and developmental changes for students and teachers.
140. Illness and Disability in Asian American Literature
Program arranged by the Division on Asian American Literature. Presiding: Anita Mannur, Miami Univ., Oxford
Cynthia Wu, Univ. at Buffalo, State Univ. of New York, “Daniel K. Inouye’s Journey to Washington: Disability and the Hidden Privileges of Local Japanese Ascendancy in Hawai‘i,”
Ellen Samuels, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, “Multilinguality and ‘Deaf Speech’ in Betty Quan’s Mother Tongue,”
Rick H. Lee, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick, “SIN, HIV, SFO: AIDS, the Body, and Justin Chin’s Corpus,”
James Kyung-Jin Lee, Univ. of California, Irvine, “Against Asian American Health: Vibrant Secularities and Medical Narratives of Illness”
142. What’s Place Got to Do with It? Voices and Vision in Midwestern Literature
Beacon G, Sheraton
Program arranged by the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature. Presiding: Marilyn Judith Atlas, Ohio Univ., Athens
Andy Oler, Indiana Univ., Bloomington, “‘High and Fervently They Were Singing’: Voice, Space, and Midwestern Modernity in Langston Hughes’s 1930 Novel Not without Laughter”
Alexander Engebretson, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York, “The Midwest Seen New Englandly: Regional Tensions in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead”
James Alfred Lewin, Shepherd Univ., “Sara Paretsky’s ‘Other’ Chicago”
152. Political Trauma and Literary Alchemy: Testimonios and the Regenerative Power of Language
A special session. Presiding: Jennifer Browdy De Hernandez, Bard Coll. at Simon’s Rock
Speakers: Nicole Caso, Bard Coll.; Martha Helena Montoya Velez, Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México; Alicia Partnoy, Loyola Marymount Univ.; Maria del Carmen Sillato, Univ. of Waterloo; Y. L. Mariela Wong, Coll. of Mount Saint Vincent
To mark the fortieth anniversary of the Pinochet coup in Chile and nearly forty years since the military takeover in Argentina, this session features three Southern Cone testimonialists, who will read passages from their works, and three respondents, who will lead a discussion on the power of narrative to resist a legacy of violence and fear. For excerpts from the three testimonials, visit bethechange2012.wordpress.com/mla-2013-testimonios.
155. Movements, Incantations, and Parables of Queer Performance
A special session. Presiding: Ann Pellegrini, New York Univ.
Sean Edgecomb, Univ. of Queensland, “Queer Movement: The Mystique of Alexander Guerra’s Traveling Rabbit”
Eng- Beng Lim, Brown Univ., “Incantatory Pinkness from Singapore to Utah”
Carrie J. Preston, Boston Univ., “Queer Christian Submission in Drag: Benjamin Britten and William Plomer’s Curlew River”
165. Beyond the PDF: Experiments in Open-Access Scholarly Publishing
A special session
Speakers: Douglas M. Armato, Univ. of Minnesota Press; Jamie Skye Bianco, Univ. of Pittsburgh; Matthew K. Gold, New York City Coll. of Tech., City Univ. of New York; Jennifer Laherty, Indiana Univ., Bloomington; Monica McCormick, New York Univ.; Katie Rawson, Emory Univ.
As open- access scholarly publishing matures and movements such as the Elsevier boycott continue to grow, open- access publications have begun to move beyond the simple (but crucial) principle of openness toward an ideal of interactivity. This session will explore innovative examples of open-access scholarly publishing that showcase new types of social, interactive, mixed- media texts.
For abstracts and discussion, visit beyondthepdf.wordpress.com/ after 1 Nov.
167. Digital Humanities and Theory
A special session. Presiding: Stefano Franchi, Texas A&M Univ., College Station
Geoffrey Rockwell, Univ. of Alberta, “Theoretical Things for the Humanities”
Stefano Franchi, “From Artificial Intelligence to Artistic Practices: A New Theoretical Model for the Digital Humanities,”
David Washington, Loyola Univ., New Orleans, “Object- Oriented Ontology: Escaping the Title of the Book”
For abstracts, visit dhcommons.tamu.edu.
177. Hybridity and Multilingualism in Yiddish
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Yiddish Literature. Presiding: Sarah Ponichtera, Columbia Univ.
Ken Frieden, Syracuse Univ., “Mysticism and Its Discontents: Hasidic and Anti- Hasidic Narratives between Hebrew and Yiddish”
Nikki Halpern, Université Paris Diderot 7, “Memory Palace, Yiddish Ghetto (Isaac Bashevis Singer and That Vexatious Yiddish Identity)”
Saul Zaritt, Jewish Theological Seminary, “The Master from Krochmalna Street: Isaac Bashevis Singer and World Literature,”
Friday, January 4
204. Theorizing Indigenous Literatures in Latin America
A special session. Presiding: Kelly S. McDonough, Univ. of Texas, Austin
Ulises Juan Zevallos-Aguilar, Ohio State Univ., Columbus, “Diglossia and Linguistic Registers: Toward a Sociolinguistic Reading of Peruvian Quechua Literature/ Hacia una lectura sociolingüística de la literatura quechua peruana”
Susan Foote, Univ. of Concepción, Chile, “Mapuche Testimony and Poetry in Chile: Poetic and Prose Discourse over Time”
Adam Coon, Univ. of Texas, Austin, “Icnotlahtolli / Migrant Words: Indigenous Theoretical Approaches to Migration in Contemporary Nahua Literature”
Ramsey Tracy, Trinity Coll., CT, “Indigenous Narrative from Oral Performance to Text: Semantic and Structural Aesthetic Concerns as Applied to the Work of Literary Translation”
209. Humanities in the Twenty- First Century: Innovation in Research and Practice
Program arranged by the Division on Teaching as a Profession. Presiding: Christine Henseler, Union Coll., NY
Lynn Pasquerella, Mount Holyoke Coll., “The Promise of Humanities Practice”
David Theo Goldberg, Univ. of California, Irvine, “Making the Humanities ‘Count’”
Jane Aikin, National Endowment for the Humanities, “The National Endowment for the Humanities”
Christine Henseler, “The Humanities in the Digital Age”
220. Image, Voice, Text: Canadian Literature
Beacon D, Sheraton
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Canadian Literature in English. Presiding: Sophie McCall, Simon Fraser Univ., Burnaby
Sunny Chan, Univ. of British Columbia, “AvantGarde.ca: Toward a Canadian Alienethnic Poetics of the Internet”
Hannah McGregor, Univ. of Guelph, “Intermedial Witnessing in Karen Connelly’s Burmese Lessons”
Sarah Henzi, Univ. of Montreal, “Aboriginal New Media: Alternative Forms of Storytelling”
For abstracts, write to email@example.com after 15 Nov.
223. “Spanglish” and Identity within and outside the Classroom
Program arranged by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. Presiding: Domnita Dumitrescu, California State Univ., Los Angeles
Robert Train, Sonoma State Univ., “Becoming Bilingual, Becoming Ourselves: Archival Memories of Spanglish in Early Californian Epistolary Texts”
Jorgelina Fidia Corbatta, Wayne State Univ., “Gloria Anzaldúa’s Discourse as a Mestiza and Queer Writer”
Ana Sánchez-Muñoz, California State Univ., Northridge, “‘Who soy yo?’: The Creative Use of Spanglish to Express a Hybrid Identity in Chicano/a Heritage Language Learners of Spanish”
Regan Postma, Albertson Coll. of Idaho, “‘¿Por qué leemos esto en la clase de español?’: The Politics of Teaching Literature in Spanglish”
236. Representations of Cultural Resistance: Deafness and Power
A special session. Presiding: Rebecca Garden, Upstate Medical Univ., State Univ. of New York
Christopher Becker Krentz, Univ. of Virginia, “Deaf Literature, Medicine, and the Paradoxes of Identity”
Rebecca Garden, “Reproducing Deafness: Visual Culture and Pathology”
Lennard J. Davis, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago, “Cochlear Wars: Deaf Culture against Science?”
237. Access to What? A Roundtable on Public Scholarship, Community Engagement, and Diversity
Fairfax A, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Bruce Burgett, Univ. of Washington, Bothell
Speakers: Jodi Melamed, Marquette Univ.; Ifeoma C. K. Nwankwo, Vanderbilt Univ.; Imani Perry, Princeton Univ.; Chandan Reddy, Univ. of Washington, Seattle; Doris Sommer, Harvard Univ.
Respondent: Gregory S. Jay, Univ. of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Questions of access in higher education most often focus on who gets in, who is left out, and how the sorting of life chances plays out across the larger institutional landscape. (is roundtable shifts that conversation by linking the question of “Access for whom?” to the equally pressing issue of “Access to what?”
239. Representing Race: Silence in the Digital Humanities
A special session. Presiding: Adeline Koh, Richard Stockton Coll. of New Jersey
Speakers: Moya Bailey, Emory Univ.; Anne Cong-Huyen, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Hussein Keshani, Univ. of British Columbia; Maria Velazquez, Univ. of Maryland, College Park
Respondent: Alondra Nelson, Columbia Univ.
This panel examines the politics of race, ethnicity, and silence in the digital humanities. How has the digital humanities remained silent on issues of race and ethnicity? How does this silence reinforce unspoken assumptions and doxa? What is the function of racialized silences in digital archival projects?
For links and participant biographies, visit www.adelinekoh .org/ blog/2012/04/02/racend/.
270. How Did I Get Here? Our “Altac” Jobs
Back Bay B, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Brenda Bethman, Univ. of Missouri, Kansas City
Speakers: Donna M. Bickford, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Brian Croxall, Emory Univ.; Kathryn Linder, Suffolk Univ.; Liana Silva, Univ. of Kansas; Sarah Werner, Folger Shakespeare Library
Respondent: C. Shaun Longstreet, Marquette Univ.
This roundtable features “alternative academics” who will discuss the paths to their “altac” job, including opportunities and challenges that come with altac positions, strategies universities might employ to maximize and leverage PhD- prepared administrators, preparing graduate students for altac jobs, the role of mentoring, and differences between altac, adjunct, and tenure- track jobs.
For a longer description of the panel and panelists’ bios, see bit.ly/JqjHdj
295. Getting Funded in the Humanities: An NEH Workshop
Program arranged by the Office of the Executive Director. Presiding: Jason+C. Rhody, National Endowment for the Humanities
This workshop will highlight recent awards and outline current funding opportunities. In addition to emphasizing grant programs that support individual and collaborative research and education, the workshop will include information on the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities. A question-and-answer period will follow.
296. Tuning In to the Phoneme: Phonetic and Phonological Nuances in Second Language Acquisition
A forum arranged by the Linguistic Society of America and the MLA. Presiding: Bryan Kirschen, Univ. of California, Los Angeles
Christine Shea, Univ. of Iowa, “Orthography Modulates Phonological Activation in a Second Language”
Jane Hacking, Univ. of Utah; Rachel Hayes- Harb, Univ. of Utah, “Orthographic and Auditory Contributions to Second- Language Word Learning: Native English Speakers Learning Russian Lexical Stress”
Polina Vasiliev, Univ. of California, Los Angeles, “Native English Speakers’ Perception of Spanish and Portuguese Vowels: The Initial State of L2 Acquisition”
Viola Miglio, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Eva Wheeler, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara, “Pronunciation of Basque as L2 by American English Native Speakers: Problems and L1 Interference”
The difficulties L2 learners have in perceiving and producing target- language sounds accurately manifest themselves in the perception and production of vowels, consonants, and suprasegmental features like intonation and stress, as well as in word recognition. Each presentation brings a different perspective on these issues, demonstrating a variety of means and methodologies available in exploring such themes.
For further details, visit www .linguisticsociety .org/meetings-institutes/ annual-meetings/2013.
343. All Ears: Listening as a Way of Understanding Literature
Independence East, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Chiara Alfano, Univ. of Sussex
Speakers: David Ben- Merre, State Univ. of New York, Buffalo State Coll.; Paul Gordon, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder; May Peckham, Washington Univ. in St. Louis; Jessica Teague, Columbia Univ.
This roundtable seeks to start a discussion on the interface between accounts of listening to literature and listening as reading literature. Although the specific focus will be on literature and theory of the twentieth century, the roundtable will resonate with all who are interested in learning to read with their ears.
350. Puerto Rican Print Cultures
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Puerto Rican Literature and Culture. Presiding: Tomás Urayoán Noel, Univ. at Albany, State Univ. of New York
Kahlil Chaar-Pérez, Harvard Univ., “Letters of Bondage: Blackface and the Merengue Craze in El Ponceño, 1852– 54”
Anne Garland Mahler, Emory Univ., “The Linguistic Politics of Piri Thomas: African American Vernacular English and Racial Discourse in Down These Mean Streets”
Juan Rodriguez, Georgia Inst. of Tech., “Poesía, imagen y tecnología en Rizoma de Áurea María Sotomayor”
Respondent: Rubén Ríos Ávila, Univ. of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras
353. Avenues of Access: Digital Humanities and the Future of Scholarly Communication
Republic Ballroom, Sheraton
A linked session arranged in conjunction with The Presidential Forum: Avenues of Access (112).
Presiding: Michael Bérubé, Penn State Univ., University Park
Matthew Kirschenbaum, Univ. of Maryland, College Park, “The Mirror and the LAMP”
Cathy N. Davidson, Duke Univ., “Access Demands a Paradigm Shift”
Bethany Nowviskie, Univ. of Virginia, “Resistance in the Materials”
The news that digital humanities are the next big thing must come as a pleasant surprise to people who have been working in the field for decades. Yet only recently has the scholarly community at large realized that developments in new media have implications not only for the form but also for the content of scholarly communication. This session will explore some of those implications—for scholars, for libraries, for journals, and for the idea of intellectual property.
363. African Testimonial Literature
Program arranged by the Division on African Literatures. Presiding: Joya F. Uraizee, Saint Louis Univ.
Kimberly Nance, Illinois State Univ., “‘Use Beginning, Middle, and End’: Testimonial Narrative as Reintegrative Therapy in Delia Jarrett- Macauley’s Moses, Citizen and Me”
Tamara Moellenberg, Univ. of Oxford, Brasenose Coll., “New Lacunae: Silence and the Child Soldier”
James D. B. McCorkle, Hobart and William Smith Colls., “In the Shadow of Rwanda: Boubacar Boris Diop, Tierno Monénembo, and Véronique Tadjo and the Literature of Testimony”
Jessica Roberts, Queen’s Univ., “Contested Testimonials: Child Soldier Memoirs”
399. Term Limits: The Language of the Presidential Campaign
Program arranged by the Division on Language and Society. Presiding: Bruce W. Robbins, Columbia Univ.
Speakers: David Bromwich, Yale Univ.; Donald E. Pease, Dartmouth Coll.; Hortense Jeanette Spillers, Vanderbilt Univ.
Three perspectives by distinguished scholars on the language used by the candidates in the 2012 presidential campaign.
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SATURDAY, January 5
SATURDAY, January 5
432. Aural Literature and Close Listening
Beacon H, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Michelle Nancy Levy, Simon Fraser Univ., Burnaby
Matthew Rubery, Univ. of London, Queen Mary Coll. “The Case against Audiobooks”
Cornelius Collins, Fordham Univ., Bronx, “Aural Literacy in a Visual Era: Is Anyone Listening?”
Justin St. Clair, Univ. of South Alabama, “Novel Sound Tracks and the Future of Hybridized Reading”
Lisa A. Hollenbach, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, “Poetry as MP3: PennSound, Poetry Recording, and the New Digital Archive”
For abstracts, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
442. Reading Aloud to Revise: Exploring the Role of Intonation in Silent Written Language
Fairfax B, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Peter Elbow, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst
Reading aloud to revise is a celebrated practice, but it is too little taught as a concrete skill and too little analyzed from a linguistic point of view. In this workshop, participants will explore this valuable teaching technique. We will work on sample passages by reading them aloud with attention to rhythm and sound and will analyze the linguistics of intonation to show why the tongue is a reliable guide to strong clear prose.
For two chapters from Elbow’s recent book, write to email@example.com.
12:00 noon–1:15 p.m.
497. Redefining the “Fossilized” Language of the Twenty- First Century
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on General Linguistics. Presiding: Marnie Jo Petray, California Polytechnic State Univ., San Luis Obispo
Bryan Kirschen, Univ. of California, Los Angeles, “Contemporary Linguistic Features of ‘Cervantine’ Judeo- Spanish”
Nassima Neggaz, Georgetown Univ., “Syria’s Arab Spring: Language Enrichment in the Midst of Revolution”
Covadonga Lamar Prieto, Univ. of California, Riverside, “Fossilized Features in 1:45–3:00 p.m.Contemporary California Spanish and Their Relation with Historical California Spanish”
539. Gendered Blues Subjectivities and Racial Politics across Southern History
Beacon F, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Adam Gussow, Univ. of Mississippi
Adam Gussow, “Thee Devil’s Son-in- Law: Blues Masculinity, Interracial Sexuality, and the Infrapolitics of Jim Crow”
Courtney George, Columbus State Univ., “‘What Would the Music Be Like?’: Revolutionary Music in Alice Walker’s Meridian”
Nicholas Gorrell, Univ. of Mississippi, “‘If Your Heart Been Broken, Call on the Handy Man’: Female Sexuality and Revisionist Masculinities in Contemporary Southern Soul-Blues”
Respondent: R. A. Lawson, Dean Coll.
For abstracts, write to firstname.lastname@example.org after 15 Nov.
546. Taste, Touch, Hear: Race, Science, and the Senses in the Nineteenth Century
Beacon A, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Kyla Wazana Tompkins, Pomona Coll.
Uri McMillan, Univ. of California, Los Angeles, “An Echo across Centuries: Joice Heth’s Sonic of Dissent”
Kyla Schuller, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick, “Touching Time: Frances E.W. Harper’s Evolutionary Aesthetics”
Kyla Wazana Tompkins, “Lifestyle Eugenics: Joel Chandler Harris and the Birth of Victim Citizenship”
550. The Classroom as Interface
A special session. Presiding: Kathi Inman Berens, Univ. of Southern California
Elizabeth Mathews Losh, Univ. of California, San Diego, “The Campus as Interface: Screening the University”
Jason Farman, Univ. of Maryland, College Park, “Being Distracted in the Digital Age”
Kathi Inman Berens, “Virtual Classroom Software: A Medium-Specific Analysis”
Leeann Hunter, Georgia Inst. of Tech., “The Multisensory Classroom”
566. Wonder and Marvel in Cross- Cultural Encounter
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Romance Literary Relations. Presiding: Lynn Ramey, Vanderbilt Univ.
Paula Park, Univ. of Texas, Austin, “The Utopian Impulse to Archive New Sounds in Alejo Carpentier’s The Lost Steps”
Laure M. Marcellesi, Dartmouth Coll., “Sexual Misunderstandings: First European Encounters with Tahiti”
Danielle Carlotti-Smith, Univ. of Virginia, “Le choc avec le réel: Intertextual Encounters in the French West Indies”
For abstracts, visit my.vanderbilt .edu/lynnramey/mla2013/.
569. One Hundred Years of The Rite of Spring
Program arranged by the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages. Presiding: Rebecca Jane Stanton, Barnard Coll.
Francoise Rosset, Wheaton Coll., MA, “The Rite of Spring: Roerich’s Pagan Past”
Marilyn Sizer, Seattle, WA, “The Rite of Spring: Stravinsky’s Mysterium”
Carol Rowntree Jones, Nottingham, England, “The Rite of Spring: Pina Bausch; Danger; and a Woman, Writing”
Respondent: Harlow L. Robinson, Northeastern Univ.
For abstracts, visit http://mlaslavic2013.blogspot.com/.
577. Science and Technology in Afro-Modern Literature
Beacon D, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Marques Redd, Marquette Univ.
Marques Redd, “The Technology of the Ancient Egyptian Future: The Cosmic Poetry of Sun Ra”
Zakiyyah Jackson, Univ. of Virginia, “The Future Is a Parasite: Octavia Butler and Posthumanism”
Beth M. Coleman, Harvard Univ., “Race as Technology: Ideologies and Literatures of ‘ Post- Race’ Identity”
583. Intellectual and Cognitive Disability Studies
Beacon F, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: John N. Allen, Milwaukee Area Technical Coll.
Sarah Pett, Univ. of York, “‘Aphasia’s Fingerprints’: Language Impairment, Autobiography, and Fiction in Paul West’s The Shadow Factory”
Michelle Jarman, Univ. of Wyoming, “The Savant and the Silent Subject: Challenging the Hierarchy of the Autism Spectrum”
John N. Allen, “The Reception of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and the Discourse of Down Syndrome”
588. Race and Poetics: On Aesthetic Practice in Ethnic Studies
Beacon A, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Nathan Grant, Saint Louis Univ.
Speakers: John Alba Cutler, Northwestern Univ.; Samantha Pinto, Georgetown Univ.; Libbie Ri-in, Georgetown Univ.; Jennifer Stoever- Ackerman, Binghamton Univ., State Univ. of New York
Respondent: Kandice Chuh, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York
This roundtable will consider cultural forms of difference across a range of genres, including the lyric, collaborative authorship, and radio. We will focus on how aesthetics shifts some of the major tenants of ethnic studies, looking at major as well as neglected authors across African American, Latino/a, Asian American, and anglophone postcolonial studies.
616. Poetic Occupations: From the Great Depression to the “Great Recession”
Independence East, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Sarah Ehlers, Univ. of South Dakota
John Marsh, Penn State Univ., University Park, “Percentile Poetics and Distributive Justice”
Sarah Ehlers, “‘The Left Needs Rhythm’: Poetry Speaks the Depression”
Paula Rabinowitz, Univ. of Minnesota, Twin Cities, “Class Ventriloquism: Women’s Letters, Lectures, Lyrics”
621. Reading, Reading Machines, and Machine Reading
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Media and Literature. Presiding: Jessica Pressman, American Council of Learned Socs.
Matthew Rubery, Univ. of London, Queen Mary Coll., “Phonographic Reading Machines”
Katherine Wilson, Alelphi Univ., “Mechanical Mediations of Miniature Text: Reading Microform”
Mara Mills, New York Univ., “Between Human and Machine, a Printed Sheet: (e Early History of OCR (Optical Character Recognition)”
631. Literary Theory and American Sign Language Literature
Program arranged by the MLA Committee on Disability Issues in the Profession. Presiding: Jill Marie Bradbury, Gallaudet Univ.
Rebecca Terese Sanchez, Fordham Univ., Bronx, “‘Human Bodies Are Words’: The Poetics of Deaf Voice”
“The Gaze: Film Studies and the Flying Words Project,” Pamela Kincheloe, Rochester Inst. of Tech.
“ASL Protest Poetry and Refashioning the Traditional Oral Epic,” Kristen%C. Harmon, Gallaudet Univ.
639. Two Tools for Student- Generated Digital Projects: WordPress and Omeka in the Classroom
Back Bay B, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Gabrielle Dean, Johns Hopkins Univ., MD
Speakers: Amanda L. French, George Mason Univ.; George Williams, Univ. of South Carolina, Spartanburg
This “master class” will focus on integrating two digital tools into the classroom to facilitate studentgenerated projects: Omeka, for the creation of archives and exhibits, and WordPress, for the creation of blogs and Web sites. We will discuss what kinds of assignments work with each tool, how to get started, and how to evaluate assignments. Bring a laptop (not a tablet) for hands- on work.
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SUNDAY, January 6
Sunday, January 6
692. Baroque Forces
Program arranged by the Division on Colonial Latin American Literatures. Presiding: Anna H. More, Univ. of California, Los Angeles
Ivonne del Valle, Univ. of California, Berkeley, “Colonial Baroque: Violence as History”
Lisa Voigt, Ohio State Univ., Columbus, “Festive Forces in Potosí”
José Francisco Robles, El Colegio de México, “Sigüenza y Vico”
Rachel Spaulding, Univ. of New Mexico, Albuquerque, “The Baroque Voice: Syncretic Afro- Catholic Performance and Power in the Visions of Early Modern Brazil’s Rosa Maria Egipçiaca”
693. Theorizing Digital Practice, Practicing Digital Theory
Liberty A, Sheraton
Program arranged by the MLA Committee on Information Technology. Presiding: Victoria E. Szabo, Duke Univ.
Tanya E. Clement, Univ. of Texas, Austin, “What Text Mining and Visualizations Have to Do with Feminist Scholarly Inquiries”
Dana Solomon, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara, “Building the Infrastructural Layer: Reading Data Visualization in the Digital Humanities”
Stephanie Boluk, Vassar Coll., “What Should We Do with Our Games?”
Respondent: Victoria E. Szabo
For abstracts, visit people.duke.edu/~ves4/mla13/.
698. Intonation and Poetic Convention
A special session. Presiding: Natalie E. Gerber, State Univ. of New York, Fredonia; Benjamin Glaser, Skidmore Coll.
Benjamin Glaser, “Libraries of Rhythm”
Thomas Cable, Univ. of Texas, Austin, “When Free Verse Is Not Free Enough”
Steve Willard, Univ. of California, San Diego “Suffused Selves: Intertextual Poetics, Intonation, and Prosody,”
Respondent: Natalie E. Gerber
For abstracts, write to gerber@ fredonia.edu.
700. May 4 Voices: Teaching about the 1970 Kent State Shootings through Oral History and Drama
Back Bay A, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Robert Balla, Univ. of Akron
Speakers: Robert Balla; Kenneth Bindas, Kent State Univ., Kent; Katherine Burke, Theatre of the Oppressed, Inc.; David Hassler, Kent State Univ., Kent
Roundtable discussion of May 4 Voices, an oral history play about the Kent State student shootings of 1970. The session will explore the play’s usefulness in multiple pedagogical settings. Panelists will describe their experiences with May 4 Voices in diverse disciplines and elicit audience responses, along with ideas for incorporating the play into humanities curricula.
701. Trauma, Affect, and Genre in African American Culture
A special session. Presiding: Cherise Smith, Univ. of Texas, Austin
Speakers: Stephanie Batiste, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Sonnet Retman, Univ. of Washington, Seattle; Christina Sharpe, Tufts Univ.; Cherise Smith; Lisa Thompson, Univ. of Austin
In this roundtable, we turn to a range of cultural media, from plays and photographs to novels and musicals, to explore the ways that various African American artists historicize and politicize racial trauma through the innovative use of genre and its affective possibilities.
702. South Asian- izing the Digital Humanities
A special session. Presiding: Rahul Gairola, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Suchismita Banerjee, Univ. of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, “Creating Alternate Voices: Exploring South Asian Cyberfeminism”
Waseem Anwar, Forman Christian Coll., “Digitizing Pakistani Literary Forms; or, E/Merging the Transcultural”
Rashmi Bhatnagar, Univ. of Pittsburgh“Reimagining Aesthetic Education: Digital Humanities in the Global South”
Respondent: Amritjit Singh, Ohio Univ., Athens
For abstracts, write to email@example.com after 1 Dec 2012.
708. Victorian Oral Culture, circa 1861–1901
Public Garden, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Anne Zwierlein, Univ. of Regensburg
John Plunkett, Univ. of Exeter, “Ways with Words: Peepshows, Panoramas, and the Showman- Lecturer”
Janice Schroeder, Carleton Univ., “The Schooled Voice: Sound and Sense in the Reports of the School Inspectorate”
John M. Picker, Massachusetts Inst. of Tech., “Siri Love, circa 1900: Voice Engine Fictions in the Age of Synergy”
For abstracts, visit www.uni-regensburg.de/sprache-literatur-kultur/anglistik/staff/zwierlein/index.html
715. Philip Roth’s Music
Liberty B, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Aimee Lynn Pozorski, Central Connecticut State Univ.
Ira Nadel, Univ. of British Columbia, “Philip Roth and the Music of Seduction”
Aimee Lynn Pozorski, “Nationalism, Lyricism, and Self- Loathing in I Married a Communist and Indignation”
Matthew Shipe, Washington Univ. in St. Louis, “Dream a Little Dream: Music as Counternarrative in Philip Roth’s Late Fiction”
Respondent: B. Jane Statlander- Slote, Miami International Univ. of Art and Design
For abstracts, visit rothsociety.org after 15 Dec.
Program arranged by the Division on Comparative Studies in Romanticism and the Nineteenth Century. Presiding: Sara Guyer, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison
Helmut Heinz Müller- Sievers, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, “Making the Gestell Sing: Romantic Music Theory, Virtuoso Performance, and the Aesthetics of Machines”
Jessica Kuskey, Syracuse Univ., “Industrial Anthropomorphism and the Victorian Factory Question”
Monique Allewaert, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, “Antimorphism”
795. Literature and Digital Pedagogies
Fairfax A, Sheraton
A special session. Presiding: Anaïs Saint- Jude, Stanford Univ.
“Teaching Modernism Traditionally and Digitally: What We May Learn from New Digital Tutoring Models by Khan Academy and Udacity,” Petra Dierkes- Thrun, Stanford Univ.
“Digital Resources and the Medieval- Literature Classroom,” Robin Wharton, Georgia Inst. of Tech.
“Toward a New Hybrid Pedagogy: Embodiment and Learning in the Classroom 2.0,” Pete Rorabaugh, Georgia State Univ.; Jesse Stommel, Marylhurst Univ.
For abstracts, visit litilluminations.wordpress.com/ after 1 Dec.
Editor’s Note: Welcome to the third installment in our month-long exploration of listening in observation of World Listening Day on July 18, 2012. For the full introduction to the series click here. To peep the previous posts, click here. Otherwise, prepare yourself to listen carefully as Mack Hagood contemplates how sound studies scholars can help tinnitus sufferers (and vice versa). –JSA
One January morning in 2006, Joel Styzens woke up and life sounded different. Superimposed over the quiet ambience of his Chicago apartment was a cluster of sounds: pure, high-pitched tones like those of a hearing test. Loud, steady, and constant, they weren’t going away. He walked to the bathroom to wash his face. “As soon as I turned on the water on the faucet,” he told me in an interview, “the left ear was crackling… like, a speaker, you know, being overdriven.” Joel was 24 and a professional musician, someone who made his living through focused and detailed listening.
As days passed, he grew more fearful and depressed. For two months, he barely left the house. The air brakes of a city bus or a honking horn were painful and caused his heart to race. His sense of himself, his environment, and his identity as a musician were all undermined. This man who lived through his ears now faced the prospect of a life of tinnitus (ringing or other “phantom sounds”) and its frequent companion, hyperacusis (sound sensitivity sometimes accompanied by distortion). Joel could even identify the dominant pitch of his torment: it was A sharp.
We humanistic and qualitative sound scholars—particularly those of us focused on media and technology—can learn a lot from listening to tinnitus and the people who have it. Scholars of science and technology studies (STS) often utilize moments of technological breakdown to reveal the processes and mechanisms that constitute things we take for granted. Tinnitus and hyperacusis are, in the words of anthropologist Stefan Helmreich, “moments when hearing and listening break down” (629). Because sound scholars understand sound, hearing, and listening not only as the material effects of physics and physiology, but also as culturally and technologically emergent phenomena, we can potentially contribute much to the growing public conversation around tinnitus.
And there is a lot at stake. Tinnitus affects 10-15% of adults and is the top service-related disability affecting U.S. veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Tinnitus and hyperacusis are also fairly common among musicians who work in loud performance and media production environments. It is perhaps ironic, then, that mediated sound and music are audiologists’ primary tools in helping people recover from these conditions.
My own study of tinnitus centers on its articulation with audio-spatial media—devices such as bedside sound machines, white noise generators, and noise-canceling headphones, all used to fabricate a desired sense of space through sound. People with tinnitus are among the most avid users of these devices, carefully mediating their aural-spatial relations as tinnitus becomes more evident in quiet spaces and hyperacusis flares up in noisy ones. During my fieldwork in audiology clinics and conferences, tinnitus support groups, and online forums, I observed that audio media were being deployed as medicine and technologies of self-care. Gradually, I came to the realization that the experience, discourse, and treatment of tinnitus is always bound up in mediation. In fact, I believe that tinnitus signals the highly mediated nature of our most intimate perceptions of sound and self. Below, I sketch just a few of the places I think aural media scholarship could go in conversation with tinnitus and hyperacusis.
The sound of media aftermath
Hearing experts do not consider subjective tinnitus to be a disease, but rather a condition in which individuals experience the normal, random neuronal firing of their auditory system as sound. Although it may be tied to various diseases and disorders, tinnitus itself is benign and does not inherently signal progressive hearing loss nor any other malignant condition.
Nevertheless, research shows a frequent association between tinnitus and reduced auditory input, comparable to a sound engineer turning up the volume on a weak signal and thus amplifying the mixing board’s inherent noise. This “automatic gain control” theory neatly explains a classic 1953 study, in which 94 percent of “normal hearing” people experienced tinnitus in the dead silence of an anechoic chamber. Unfortunately, it also helps confirm the fear that the ringing heard after a night of loud music is due to hearing loss, known clinically as “temporary threshold shift.”
As Joel’s case suggests, when repeated, such threshold shifts lead to permanent damage. Audiologists increasingly see media-induced hearing loss and tinnitus as an epidemic, with ubiquitous earbuds often positioned as the main culprits. I have heard clinicians express dismay at encountering more young people with “old ears” in their offices, and youth education programs are beginning to proliferate. These apparent relations between aural pleasure and self-harm are an intriguing and socially significant area for sound and media scholarship, but they should also be considered within the context of moral panics that have historically accompanied the emergence of new media.
Objectifying phantom sound
For both clinicians and sufferers, one of the most frustrating and confounding aspects of tinnitus is how hard it is to objectify, either as a subject of research and treatment or as a condition worthy of empathy and activism. For both clinicians and sufferers, media are the primary tools for converting tinnitus into a manageable object.
Although media scholars haven’t yet studied it as such, the audiologist’s clinic is a center of media production and consumer electronics retail. Having audio production experience, I felt a sense of recognition on seeing the mixer-like audiometer in the control room of Joel’s audiologist, Jill Meltzer, separated by a pane of glass from the soundproofed booth where her patients sit. It was a studio where Meltzer recorded hearing rather than sound, as she attempted the tricky work of matching the pitch, volume, and sensitivity levels of tinnitus and hyperacusis. Since medication and surgery are not effective treatment options, the remedies for sale are media prosthetics and palliatives such as wearable sound generators, “fractal tone” hearing aids, Neuromonics, and sound machines that help distract, calm, and habituate patients to the ringing. Meltzer and other clinicians consistently told me that they have only two tinnitus tools at their disposal—counseling and sound.
The subjectivity of tinnitus is most frustrating for sufferers, however, who often encounter impatience and misunderstanding from family, friends, bosses, and even their doctors. Again, media serve to externalize and objectify the sound. Joel did this through music: “A Sharp,” Styzens’ first post-tinnitus composition, represents tinnitus with chordal dissonance and hyperacusis with a powerful change of dynamics on a guitar. He eventually recorded an entire album that explored his condition and raised awareness.
Other individuals, in an attempt to communicate the aural experience that drives their sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, or lack of concentration, create YouTube videos designed to recreate the subjective experience of tinnitus.
The American Tinnitus Association, an advocacy group, has used broadcast and social media to raise awareness and research funding, as we see in this PSA from 1985.
However, such dramatic uses of media may be in some ways too powerful. In fact, “raising awareness of tinnitus” might be as bad as it literally sounds.
In the process of externalizing their experience for others to hear, people with tinnitus can make their own perception of the sound grow stronger. They may also generate anxiety in others, encouraging them to notice and problematize their own, previously benign tinnitus.
Neuroscientist Pawel Jastreboff’s groundbreaking and influential neurophysiological model of tinnitus postulates that tinnitus becomes bothersome only when the auditory cortex forms networks with other areas in the brain, resulting in a vicious circle of increasing perception and fear. The implication of this model, now substantiated by clinical research, is that the way people think about tinnitus is a much greater predictor of suffering than the perceived volume of the sound. As Jastreboff told me in an interview, “Incorrect information can induce bothersome tinnitus.” Information, of course, circulates through media. It may be productive, then, to think of tinnitus suffering as a communicable dis-ease, one strengthened in circulation through networks of neurons, discourse, and media.
I think there is both a need and an opportunity in tinnitus for an applied sound studies, one that intervenes in this mediated public discourse, works against moral panic and hyperawareness, and suggests the quieting possibilities that open up when we grasp the constructed nature of our aurality. Listening to tinnitus as a networked coproduction highlights the ways in which our most subjective aural perceptions are also social, cultural, and mediated—perhaps the fundamental insight of sound studies. My hope is that by listening to tinnitus we can speak to it as well.
*Featured Image Credit: A representation of Tinnitus by Flickr User Jason Rogers, called “Day 642/365–Myself is against me”