The Ancient Phonograph by Shane ButlerThe Ancient Phonograph by Shane Butler

The Ancient Phonograph

byShane Butler

Hardcover | September 4, 2015

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A search for traces of the voice before the phonograph, reconstructing a series of ancient soundscapes from Aristotle to Augustine.

Long before the invention of musical notation, and long before that of the phonograph, the written word was unrivaled as a medium of the human voice. In The Ancient Phonograph, Shane Butler searches for traces of voices before Edison, reconstructing a series of ancient soundscapes from Aristotle to Augustine. Here the real voices of tragic actors, ambitious orators, and singing emperors blend with the imagined voices of lovesick nymphs, tormented heroes, and angry gods. The resonant world we encounter in ancient sources is at first unfamiliar, populated by texts that speak and sing, often with no clear difference between the two. But Butler discovers a commonality that invites a deeper understanding of why voices mattered then and why they have mattered since.

With later examples that range from Mozart to Jimi Hendrix, Butler offers an ambitious attempt to rethink the voice-as an anatomical presence, a conceptual category, and a source of pleasure and wonder. He carefully and critically assesses the strengths and limits of recent theoretical approaches to the voice by Adriana Cavarero and Mladen Dolar and makes a rich and provocative range of ancient material available for the first time. The Ancient Phonograph will appeal not only to classicists and to voice theorists but to anyone with an interest in the verbal arts-literature, oratory, song-and the nature of aesthetic experience.

Shane Butler is Professor of Classics at Johns Hopkins University and the author of The Matter of the Page: Essays in Search of Ancient and Medieval Authors.
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Title:The Ancient PhonographFormat:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:September 4, 2015Publisher:The MIT PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1935408720

ISBN - 13:9781935408727

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Editorial Reviews

A search for traces of the voice before the phonograph, reconstructing a series of ancient soundscapes from Aristotle to Augustine.Long before the invention of musical notation, and long before that of the phonograph, the written word was unrivaled as a medium of the human voice. In The Ancient Phonograph, Shane Butler searches for traces of voices before Edison, reconstructing a series of ancient soundscapes from Aristotle to Augustine. Here the real voices of tragic actors, ambitious orators, and singing emperors blend with the imagined voices of lovesick nymphs, tormented heroes, and angry gods. The resonant world we encounter in ancient sources is at first unfamiliar, populated by texts that speak and sing, often with no clear difference between the two. But Butler discovers a commonality that invites a deeper understanding of why voices mattered then and why they have mattered since. With later examples that range from Mozart to Jimi Hendrix, Butler offers an ambitious attempt to rethink the voice-as an anatomical presence, a conceptual category, and a source of pleasure and wonder. He carefully and critically assesses the strengths and limits of recent theoretical approaches to the voice by Adriana Cavarero and Mladen Dolar and makes a rich and provocative range of ancient material available for the first time. The Ancient Phonograph will appeal not only to classicists and to voice theorists but to anyone with an interest in the verbal arts-literature, oratory, song-and the nature of aesthetic experience. The Ancient Phonograph is a highly original, ambitious, and deftly realized book. Taking on some of the most established and widespread post-structuralist concepts of the voice, language, presence, and the real, Butler advances a new theory about literature as a 'phonograph,' in the literal (Greek) sense of a writing of the voice. The book's feat is to revitalize a range of contemporary conversations across the theoretical humanities by coaxing voices from ancient texts that have long been seen as the necessarily abbreviated scripts of once-vibrant, now lost performance cultures and far from relevant to media studies, primarily fixated on the modern and the postmodern. Butler pulls it off beautifully. The Ancient Phonograph maps exciting new ground for thinking about a text's embodied resonances.-Brooke A. Holmes, Professor of Classics, Princeton University