Listening to Modernism

On 22nd March 2019, Professor Anna Snaith gave the second Centre for Modernist Cultures annual guest lecture on the subject of 'Listening to Modernism'.


Anna is Professor of Twentieth-Century Literature at King's College London. Her recent publications include Modernist Voyages (CUP, 2014) and editions of Virginia Woolf’s The Years (CUP Edition of Virginia Woolf, 2012) and A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas (Oxford, 2015). She is currently editing a volume on Literature and Sound (CUP) and working on a monograph on noise in inter-war British writing.

In her lecture, Anna explored how literary texts might be thought of as places of 'sounding out', and considered the implications of listening in to the ways in which the literary anticipates, archives, and amplifies the acoustic. Her lecture opened by investigating questions germane to the burgeoning field of literary sound studies before it narrowed its focus to the inter-war period as one characterised by a preoccupation with noise. As she demonstrated, practitioners working across a range of disciplines--the creative arts, medicine, acoustics, and industrial psychology--attempted to define, measure, represent, and legislate against noise. Modernist writers did not just evoke their noisy environment on the silent, printed page, they tuned in to the aesthetic, cultural, and political possibilities of found or mechanical sound.