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Hearing Joyce Speak: The Phonograph Recordings of “Aeolus” and “Anna Livia Plurabelle” as Audiotexts

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 46, Number 2, Winter 2009
pp. 269-284 | 10.1353/jjq.0.0134



Joyce’s phonograph recordings, made in 1924 and 1929 of excerpts from “Aeolus” and “Anna Livia Plurabelle,” have not received detailed critical attention. Literary scholars have noted the circumstances of the recordings but have not analyzed them as recordings. In this essay, I propose that Joyce’s phonograph recordings have more than a novelty or historical value and are instead important audio documents that merit careful analysis and “close listening.” In considering Joyce’s recordings as audiotexts—a term borrowed from the analysis of recorded poetry—the linguistic profusion of Joyce’s writing meets the sonic profusion of oral delivery, and this intersection of the verbal and the vocable opens up new possibilities of critical interpretation, relating to Joyce’s performance of self, to his relationship to the Irish tradition of seanchas (lore), and to the voluptuous pleasure—what Roland Barthes calls signifiance—of reading, writing, and listening.

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