The Acoustic World of Early Modern England: Attending to the O-Factor

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University of Chicago Press, Apr 15, 1999 - Literary Criticism - 386 pages
We know how a Shakespeare play sounds when performed today, but what would listeners have heard within the wooden "O" of the Globe Theater in 1599? What sounds would have filled the air in early modern England, and what would these sounds have meant to people in that largely oral culture?

In this ear-opening journey into the sound-worlds of Shakespeare's contemporaries, Bruce R. Smith explores both the physical aspects of human speech (ears, lungs, tongue) and the surrounding environment (buildings, landscape, climate), as well as social and political structures. Drawing on a staggeringly wide range of evidence, he crafts a historical phenomenology of sound, from reconstructions of the "soundscapes" of city, country, and court to detailed accounts of the acoustic properties of the Globe and Blackfriars theaters and how scripts designed for the two spaces exploited sound very differently.

Critical for anyone who wants to understand the world of early modern England, Smith's pathbreaking "ecology" of voice and listening also has much to offer musicologists and acoustic ecologists.

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The acoustic world of early modern England: attending to the O-factor

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Smith (English, Georgetown Univ.) offers a provocative evocation of the world of sound in Shakespeare's England. Drawing on a wide range of primary sources as well as insights from aspects of modern ... Read full review


Mapping the Field
Some Propositions Concerning O
Ballads Within Around Among Of Upon
Within the Wooden O
Circling the Subject
Listen Otherwise
Works Cited
Index I

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About the author (1999)

Bruce R. Smith is professor of English at Georgetown University. He is author of Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare's England: A Cultural Poetics, published by the University of Chicago Press, and The Art and History of Washington, D.C.

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