English R1B

Reading and Composition: The Sonic Artifact

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
11 Spring 2013 Le, Serena
MWF 2-3 225 Wheeler

Book List

Shelley, Percy Bysshe: Prometheus Unbound; Wordsworth, William: Lyrical Ballads

Other Readings and Media

A course reader containing additional poems by Matthew Arnold, John Keats, Charlotte Smith, Shelley, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, essays by Arnold and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and excerpts from contemporary criticism in acoustics and ethnomusicology.

Listenings (including recordings of birdsong) available through library databases and other online resources.


“How canst thou hear / Who knowest not the language of the dead?” This is the question Earth has for Prometheus in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound. Prometheus, inhabitant of the mortal world and not yet dead, should be deaf to Earth’s voice, which is the voice of all lived history, the sediment of nature and civilization turned to layers of planetary crust. Somehow, miraculously, Prometheus hears. Lacking similar miracles, how do we? This course is interested in sound as archaeology, in the crash of waves and the flutter of birdsong that become, in literature, a seeming portal to lost or absent time. From the poets of Romanticism, who insist on the quality of natural sound as that which allows them to hear through the ages, to modernist writers likewise predisposed, we will discuss sound as elusive object and persistent artifact, and the texts that, map-like, seem to bid us find it.

Written work for this course will consist of several essays of varying length, culminating in a research paper on a topic of the student’s own design. Students should expect to refine basic skills in researching and developing extended critical commentary.

Back to Semester List