By Allen S. Weiss
Breathless explores early sound recording and the literature that either foreshadowed its invention and used to be contemporaneous with its early years, revealing the large impression of this new expertise on the very origins of Modernism. via shut readings of works via Edgar Allan Poe, Stéphane Mallarmé, Charles Cros, Paul Valéry, Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, Jules Verne, and Antonin Artaud, Allen S. Weiss indicates how sound recording's uncanny confluence of human and computing device may remodel our expectancies of mourning and melancholia, transfiguring our intimate relation to dying. Interdisciplinary, the ebook bridges poetry and literature, theology and metaphysics. As Breathless exhibits, the symbolic and useful roles of poetry and expertise have been remodeled as new varieties of nostalgia and eroticism arose.
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Additional info for Breathless: Sound Recording, Disembodiment, and the Transformation of Lyrical Nostalgia
26 The implications of this theory are vast: the Homeric poetic imagination was not a function of the spontaneous intuitions of genius but rather of the inspired choice of phrase culled from a preexisting repertoire of epithets and determined by metrical exigencies. These vast poems were not memorized verbatim; they were rendered differently at each recitation, according to the powers or weaknesses of memory and the exigencies of differing performance situations. "27 This dependence on the formulaic is, according to Ong, a prime feature of thought patterns in oral cultures, because in the absence of written aids the exigencies of memory are such that oft-repeated clusters of formulas guarantee both the success of performance and the transmission of knowledge.
For Mallarme was certainly cognizant of Poe's story "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" through Baudelaire's translation of it in Histoires extraordinaire* as "La verite sur le cas de M. " This is the tale of a man dying of phthisis (pulmonary tuberculosis) who is mesmerized by a friend in order to see whether death can be arrested. Commonly known as consumption, phthisis was a highly stigmatized disease of the mid-nineteenth century and, not coincidentally, the cause of death of Poe's young wife.
Here, the ontological status of a subjectivity in process is that of total discursive equivocation, evincing an existentially impossible situation: "No clear distinction can be made between sleep and waking, between the conscious and the unconscious, or between reason and unreason. "32 He later adds to this list of antinomies: between life and death. "34 Such is the voice of ventriloquism and spiritualism; one might add that it is also the voice of the century's newly imagined sound recording and broadcast technologies, of acousmetric voices without origin or telos, of the inmixing of voices of the living with those of the dead.
Breathless: Sound Recording, Disembodiment, and the Transformation of Lyrical Nostalgia by Allen S. Weiss