The SpokenWeb Research Network (www.spokenweb.ca) will host an in-person and virtual graduate student symposium (academic conference) to be held at Concordia University in Montreal, 16-17 May 2022, on the theme of “The Sound of Literature in Time.”

Introduction to Theme:  The concepts of sound, time and literature evoke a wide range of research questions when considered in relation to each other. Together, they may suggest questions about how sound has been represented in literary works from different historical periods, how time has structured the way literary works sound (as with poetic metre), how readings and recitations sound literature across a span of time, and how time is sounded in different literary cultures and communities. Explorations of non-Western temporal frameworks, as in Mark Rifkin’s Beyond Settler Time, and a recent special issue on Black Temporality in Times of Crisis edited by Badia Ahad and Habiba Ibrahim, for example, reveal diverse meanings of temporality across cultures. As a concept, sound is always moving through time, and so, descriptions of sound involve the description of time in motion. Even a piece of sound (a sound ‘bite’) must be in motion to be audibly perceptible. As Don Ihde, in his explorations of sound phenomenology observes, “[i]insofar as all sounds are also ‘events,’ all the sounds are within the first approximation, likely to be considered as ‘moving.’” Without motion, sound is rendered silent. This is especially evident in sounds that have been recorded on time-based audio recording media which suggest the possibility of capturing real historical time in mediated form. Media theorists have noticed how the real-time quality of recorded sound, that it puts us into time that has already passed and opens a tunnel connection with the past, triggers what Wolfgang Ernst has called “the drama of time critical media.” An encounter with a recorded sound develops as an experience of real time processing.  It gives the listener the sense that the temporal process one hears is living in the present, replicating the live sonic event, of which it is apparently a real-time reproduction.  Sound recording works on human perception itself, and on our perception of time.  Other sound scholars have noted how the temporal qualities of sound immediately raise questions of historical context. For example, Pierre Schaeffer describes a “sound object” as “something that occurs in a certain place during a particular interval of time” for which questions of “context” apply. Friedrich Kittler’s work on literature and media has insisted that sound recording technology has had a transformative impact upon our relationship to the past. Time itself becomes a variable to be manipulated with technological media (you can speed up, slow down, reverse the direction of the record) suggesting that our capacity to manipulate the media artifact not only enables us to process historical “real time” so that it is experienced as a temporal event in the present, but to transform historical “real time” into events of alternate temporal orders, as well.  Most recently, Mara Mills and Jonathan Sterne have explored the history of listening to literature at accelerated speeds by blind audiobook readers, and the technological history of time shifting in speech-oriented sound media. When we are talking about sound, time, and literature, we are considering the intervolved relationship of something we identify as a literary artifact as a kind of event that suggests possibilities of playing, replaying and creating history. 

Invitation: For this year’s SpokenWeb symposium, we invite graduate students of all levels from both within and outside the SpokenWeb network to submit proposals for full-length papers (15-20 minute) that explore the concepts of sound, time and literature. Papers may develop the relationship between these concepts across a wide range of historical periods, cultural artifacts (texts, recorded sounds, etc.), and critical methodologies. Students whose proposals are accepted will be invited to participate in online feedback sessions with members of the Symposium committee to discuss approaches to developing proposal abstracts into papers. 

Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Literary history as pursued through the sound archive
  • Representations of sound and voice in literary works
  • Literary soundscapes
  • Literary Listening
  • Voice and literature
  • Narrative and sonic time
  • Literary prosody and/or speech prosody
  • The history of metrics in poetry
  • Literary elocution, recitation, speech, performance, etc.
  • Sound poetry
  • Literature and sound art
  • Temporality and the literary event
  • Methodological intersections between literary studies and sound studies
  • Indigenous temporalities
  • Sound, literature and ideas of deep time (geological and environmental temporality)

Proposals are encouraged from women, Indigenous people, people of colour, LGBTQ2+, or other underrepresented groups. The conference will be free to attend and open to the public.

Instructions:  Individual papers will be between 15-20 minutes in presentation length. Panel sessions will be 90 minutes in duration,with time for discussion. Paper proposals, with title, should identify the topic, argument, methodology, object(s) of analysis, and explain the overall aims and materials that will be covered in the talk.  

Please send proposals of no more than 250 words, plus a short biographical statement, including affiliation, degree stage, publications and other relevant information for each presenter as a single (compiled) Word or PDF attachment, to


Deadline: 1 March 2022

(Please use SPOKENWEB SYMPOSIUM 2022 as subject header for your email and, yes, spokenwebsymposium2020 is the correct email address.)

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