Developing An Ear For The Modernist Novel

Submitted By mollyjp93
Words: 898
Pages: 4

Developing an Ear for the Modernist Novel: Summary As Angela Frattarola attempts to understand the complexities of the modernist novel, she poses the question: why does sight tend to be the most prevalent sense among novels? She opens by describing the first scene of Dickens’s Great Expectations and how the protagonist Pip is entirely focused on what he sees. Dickens uses Pip’s sight to depict his surroundings and establish a setting, which proves that Dickens relies heavily on appearance to provide descriptions. The importance Dickens places on Pip’s eyes in just the opening pages suggests that sincerity is only revealed when looking into one’s eyes. Frattarola then explains how visual descriptions gained popularity in the Victorian era due to the growth and development of art and photography; which by nature, revolves around ocular aspects. Although sight was still the dominant sense throughout the Victorian era, auditory technologies, like the phonograph and wireless radio, started to become a part of everyday life in the mid-1870s. These advances consequently forced authors to concentrate on sound by using descriptive language. Frattarola then contrasts the visual descriptions in Great Expectations with the abundance of auditory descriptions in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. She explicates, “while the eye has not lost its importance in the modernist novel, the ear has suddenly joined it to present a more complete sensory experience” (Frattarola). Although some philosophers like Foucault, Irigaray, and Bataille harbor “a deep-seated distrust of the privileging of sight”; Frattarola says it is still important for readers to give credit to visual aspects because there is so much more to see than what we actually see (Frattarola). She gives the examples of film and photography, both of which capture a moment that allows onlookers to notice subtleties in nature or other individuals that may have otherwise been missed. Many consider this blurred line between seeing and knowing a crisis, but Frattarola argues that it gives modernist authors a new goal: to explore the interior world and supply readers with a better understanding of the internal monologue. Frattarola finally settles upon the fact that although auditory accounts increased at the turn of the century, visual representations remain an author’s primary source. She explains, through the ideas of Theodor Adorno and Hanns Eisler, that listening is an archaic action as opposed to seeing, which would justify why audio reliance is so overlooked. Frattarola then turns to the ideas of Steven Connor to answer her original question. Connor explains how the act of seeing is more distant from the real world than hearing because sounds cannot be turned off as readily as sight. He therefore considers sight as something that is subjective as opposed to sound, which allows for full emersion. Connor also suggests that “auditory influences on the subject are not limited to just the sounds one hears”, which therefore results in the idea of “inner speech” or stream of consciousness. This forces writers to have to focus on or evaluate what is inside their heads. Next, Frattarola gives examples of how different authors break conventions through their interpretation of stream of consciousness writing. She uses Virginia Woolf’s The Wave to exemplify her point that modernist writers completely turned their attention to everyday noises like “the sound of the sea and the birds, dawn and garden subconsciously preset” (Woolf). Connor explains how in Woolf’s novel, “audition draws characters together while vision separates them” while scholar Cuddy-Keane agrees that it is necessary for readers to give attention to sound