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A remainder that spoils the ear: Voice as love object in modernist fiction

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This paper explores the potentialities opened by the Lacanian concept of voice as object in the study of literary texts: is not the literary voice, by definition, silent, since we hear it with our eyes? Through examples taken among modernist writers, we shall see different modalities of voice: how, in a chapter of Ulysses dedicated to the ear, "Sirens", Joyce puts the Other's discourse and its excess of significance to silence, through a particular binding of voice to letter. Katherine Mansfield's stories centre on an epiphanic moment of suspension which always ends in a trickle of voice uttering the impossibility of finding a signifier for femininity. In Conrad, the 'acousmatic' voice is indissolubly associated with a spot of time, a blind spot in the picture which betrays the authority of established models or ideals. Voice, then, is more than ever what is at stake in modernity insofar as its presence foregrounds epistemological uncertainty and the lack of guarantee in human utterances. It is most often the vehicle for recording and transmitting affects like anxiety, joy, bliss, horror which can be the hallmark of a writer's style.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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