Political disappointment—that is, desire for fundamental change that outlasts a historical moment when it might have been fulfilled—pervades the 20th century in the U.S., shaping its literature, art, and sound. Disappointment also spurs inevitably incomplete transcriptions of sound into textual forms, and this talk will discuss several such transcriptions, including Ella Sheppard’s Reconstruction-era musical arrangements, W.E.B. Du Bois’s deployment of musical notation, typographic signifiers of sound in Tillie Olsen’s fiction, and intermedial migrations in the artwork of David Wojnarowicz. Sara Marcus will argue that these transcriptive practices generate textual instabilities that archive disappointments across generations and call for attentive practices of coalitional listening.
Presented in partnership between the Department of English & Comparative Literature and the Institute for the Study of Sexuality & Gender, with co-sponsorship support from The Society of Fellows & Heyman Center for the Humanities