The Noise of the Text: Writing Dissonance and Disruption in Nineteenth-Century French Literature
Madeleine Wolf dissertation May 13 2021.pdf (4.187Mb)
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Wolf, Madeleine Diane
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CitationWolf, Madeleine Diane. 2021. The Noise of the Text: Writing Dissonance and Disruption in Nineteenth-Century French Literature. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the role of noise—both figurative and literal acoustic noise—in selected French narratives and poems written between the 1830s and 1880s. The nineteenth century marked a time of great interest in and awareness of sound in France, and Paris in particular was a site of discordant soundscapes. Immersed in the cacophonous scores of street noise, sweeping urban renovations as well as revolutions and international and civil conflicts, nineteenth-century writers were fascinated by noise, and as I argue, incorporated the dissonance and disruption that surrounded them into their work. I study iconic authors, Honoré de Balzac and Charles Baudelaire, and lesser-known figures, the Comte de Lautréamont and Rachilde, all of whom assigned a prominent role to noise in their work. My dissertation asks: How do their texts make noise? And what does this noise achieve?
Noise refers to sound that is dissonant, disordered, unpleasant, or unwanted. Stemming from an Old French word (noise) that means both sonic disturbance as well as dispute or quarrel, noise is also linked to distraction, disruption, pollution, and transgression. However, I argue that noise also plays an important role in the creative, literary process. Blending close readings, historical analyses, and sound studies, my dissertation traces different kinds of noise in Balzac’s Le Chef-d’œuvre inconnu (1831-47), Baudelaire’s verse and prose poetry (1857-69), Les Chants de Maldoror by the Comte de Lautréamont (1868-69), and Rachilde’s Monsieur Vénus (1884). I propose that these writers mobilize literal and figurative noise (in the form of noise or quarrel, city noise, dissonant literary aesthetics, and gender disagreement and scandal) in order to interrogate representational, generic, sociopolitical, literary, and gender norms.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368460
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