- Copyright Page
- List of Illustrations
- Notes on Contributors
- In Ancient Rome
- In the Classroom
- In the Custom House
- In Public
- Across Borders
- Mental Representation
- Mindreading and Social Status
- Dyslexia: Through the Eyes of da Vinci
Abstract and Keywords
What does it mean for printed literature to have a “sound”—for people to “hear” what they silently read? This essay formulates a theory of “potential sound” in literature by examining the word “O” or “oh” as it appears across the history of poetry, performance, media culture, and language philosophy. Examples range from poems (by Tennyson, Frost, Rankine, Patti Smith, etc.) to TV programs (from The Wire to Will & Grace)—from YouTube supercuts (of each “Oh!” in The Sopranos, each “Oh, geez” in Fargo, etc.) to theater-historical anecdotes (e.g., acting exercises, famous Oh’s of performances past). Together these objects show how our habits of hearing, the vocal cultures to which we belong, and the various (often, imagined) performances we witness can color our acts of private, silent reading.
Christopher Grobe, Associate Professor of English at Amherst College, is the author of The Art of Confession: The Performance of Self from Robert Lowell to Reality TV (2017). His other writings on literature and performance can be found in PMLA, NLH, and several edited collections. Currently, he is writing a cultural history of realist acting, or “the art of seeming human.”
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