On Friday, November 7th I will be giving a talk to the UVA English Department entitled “The Joycean Record: Listening Patterns and Sound Coteries.” The talk is a reworking of material from one of my dissertation chapters that I originally presented at last year’s MLA meeting in Chicago.
Modernist authors famously gathered in a series of small coteries, intellectual clusters centered on the production and reception of their creations. Modernists frequently took to the microphone to record readings of their works as well, and the lives of such sound objects can offer us both new networks of modernist reception and distribution as well as a new conception of modernism’s engagement with sound technology based on lived practices. This talk places James Joyce alongside sociologies of record collecting and reception as a means of rethinking Ulysses’s engagement with sound recording technology as an ongoing, lived, and social practice. Doing so uncovers a new history of Ulysses as both participant in and subject of sound communities emerging during the twentieth century, as an object that coordinates networked sound production and reception. From Joyce’s network of friends and collaborators to the coterie that gathers around the production of the 2007 LibriVox recording of Ulysses, I suggest that group listening enabled by sound recording has always been vital to the life of Joyce’s text.