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Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Ventriloquism, the art of "seeming to speak where one is not", speaks so resonantly to our contemporary technological condition. We now think nothing of hearing voices--our own and others'--propelled over intercoms, cellphones, and answering machines. Yet, why can none of us hear our own recorded voice without wincing? Why is the telephone still full of such spookiness and erotic possibility? And why does the magician's trick of speaking through a dummy entertain as well as disturb us? These are the kind of questions which impel Dumbstruck, Steven Connor's wide-ranging, relentlessly inquisitive history of ventriloquism and the disembodied voice.

Connor follows his subject from its early beginnings in ancient Israel and Greece, through the outcries of early Christian writers against the unholy (and, they believed, obscenely produced) practices of pagan divination. Surprisingly, he finds that women like the sibyls of Delphi were the key voices in these male-dominated times. Connor then turns to the aberrations of the voice in mysticism, witchcraft and possession, and the strange cultural obsession with the vagrant figure of the ventriloquist, newly conceived as male rather than female, that flourished during the Enlightenment. He retells the stories of some of the most popular and versatile ventriloquists and polyphonists of the nineteenth century, and investigates the survival of ventriloquial delusions and desires in spiritualism and the 'vocalic uncanny' of technologies like the telephone, radio, film, and the internet.

Brimming with anecdote and insight, Dumbstruck is a provocative archeology of a seemingly trivial yet profoundly relevant presence in human history. Its pages overflow with virtuoso philosophical and psychological reflections on the problems and astonishments, the raptures and absurdities of the unhoused voice.

Synopsis:

A history of ventriloquism and the disembodied voice. The author tracks his subject from its beginnings in ancient Israel and Greece, through early Christian writers against practices of pagan divination, the voice in mysticism, and witchcraft and the figure of the ventriloquist.

Synopsis:

Ventriloquism, the art of "seeming to speak where one is not", speaks so resonantly to our contemporary technological condition. We now think nothing of hearing voices--our own and others'--propelled over intercoms, cellphones, and answering machines. Yet, why can none of us hear our own recorded voice without wincing? Why is the telephone still full of such spookiness and erotic possibility? And why does the magician's trick of speaking through a dummy entertain as well as disturb us? These are the kind of questions which impel Dumbstruck, Steven Connor's wide-ranging, relentlessly inquisitive history of ventriloquism and the disembodied voice.

Connor follows his subject from its early beginnings in ancient Israel and Greece, through the outcries of early Christian writers against the unholy (and, they believed, obscenely produced) practices of pagan divination. Surprisingly, he finds that women like the sibyls of Delphi were the key voices in these male-dominated times. Connor then turns to the aberrations of the voice in mysticism, witchcraft and possession, and the strange cultural obsession with the vagrant figure of the ventriloquist, newly conceived as male rather than female, that flourished during the Enlightenment. He retells the stories of some of the most popular and versatile ventriloquists and polyphonists of the nineteenth century, and investigates the survival of ventriloquial delusions and desires in spiritualism and the 'vocalic uncanny' of technologies like the telephone, radio, film, and the internet.

Brimming with anecdote and insight, Dumbstruck is a provocative archeology of a seemingly trivial yet profoundly relevant presence in human history. Its pages overflow with virtuoso philosophical and psychological reflections on the problems and astonishments, the raptures and absurdities of the unhoused voice.

Synopsis:

In this study of ventriloquism, Connor follows his subject from its early beginnings in ancient Israel and Greece, its role in mysticism and witchcraft, through to modern entertainment.

About the Author

Stephen Connor was educated at Christ's Hospital Horsham and Wadham College, Oxford, and has taught at Birkbeck College, University of London since 1979. He currently is Professor of Modern Literature and Theory. He is the author of numerous books on English literature and cultural studies, including Charles Dickens, Postmodernist Culture: An Introduction to Theories of the Contemporary, and Theory and Cultural Value.

Table of Contents

Part I: Powers

1. What I Say Goes

Part II: Prophecies

2. Earth, Breath, Frenzy: The Delphic Oracle

3. Origen, Eustathius, and The Witch of Endor

Part III: Possessions

4. Hoc Est Corpus

5. The Exorcism of John Darrell

6. O, that Oh is the Devill: Glover and Harsnett

Part IV: Prodigies

7. Miracles and the Encyclopédie

8. Speaking Parts: Diderot and Les Bijoux indiscrets

9. The Abbé and the Ventriloque

10. The Dictate of Phrenzy: Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland

Part V: Polyphonics

11. Ubiquitarical

12. At Home and Abroad: Monsieur Alexandre and Mr Matthews

13. Phenomena in the Philosophy of Sound: Mr Love

14. Writing the Voice

Part VI: Prosthetics

15. Vocal Reinforcement

16. Talking Heads, Automaton Ears

17. A Gramophone in Every Grave

Part VII: No Time Like the Present

18. No Time Like the Present

Works Cited

Index

Product Details

ISBN:
9780198184331
Author:
Connor, Steven
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Author:
null, Steven
Location:
Oxford
Subject:
History
Subject:
Modern - 20th Century
Subject:
Linguistics
Subject:
Comedy
Subject:
Ventriloquism
Subject:
Film & Video - History & Criticism
Subject:
Ventriloquism -- History.
Subject:
Ventriloquism - Social aspects
Subject:
Humor-Comedy Business and Criticism
Edition Number:
2
Series Volume:
225
Publication Date:
20010131
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
15 halftones
Pages:
472
Dimensions:
6.1 x 9.1 x 1.4 in 1.906 lb

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Drama » Acting
Arts and Entertainment » Drama » Mime and Puppetry
Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » History and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Humor » Comedy Business and Criticism
History and Social Science » World History » 1650 to Present
History and Social Science » World History » General

Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism New Hardcover
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Product details 472 pages Oxford University Press - English 9780198184331 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , A history of ventriloquism and the disembodied voice. The author tracks his subject from its beginnings in ancient Israel and Greece, through early Christian writers against practices of pagan divination, the voice in mysticism, and witchcraft and the figure of the ventriloquist.
"Synopsis" by , Ventriloquism, the art of "seeming to speak where one is not", speaks so resonantly to our contemporary technological condition. We now think nothing of hearing voices--our own and others'--propelled over intercoms, cellphones, and answering machines. Yet, why can none of us hear our own recorded voice without wincing? Why is the telephone still full of such spookiness and erotic possibility? And why does the magician's trick of speaking through a dummy entertain as well as disturb us? These are the kind of questions which impel Dumbstruck, Steven Connor's wide-ranging, relentlessly inquisitive history of ventriloquism and the disembodied voice.

Connor follows his subject from its early beginnings in ancient Israel and Greece, through the outcries of early Christian writers against the unholy (and, they believed, obscenely produced) practices of pagan divination. Surprisingly, he finds that women like the sibyls of Delphi were the key voices in these male-dominated times. Connor then turns to the aberrations of the voice in mysticism, witchcraft and possession, and the strange cultural obsession with the vagrant figure of the ventriloquist, newly conceived as male rather than female, that flourished during the Enlightenment. He retells the stories of some of the most popular and versatile ventriloquists and polyphonists of the nineteenth century, and investigates the survival of ventriloquial delusions and desires in spiritualism and the 'vocalic uncanny' of technologies like the telephone, radio, film, and the internet.

Brimming with anecdote and insight, Dumbstruck is a provocative archeology of a seemingly trivial yet profoundly relevant presence in human history. Its pages overflow with virtuoso philosophical and psychological reflections on the problems and astonishments, the raptures and absurdities of the unhoused voice.

"Synopsis" by , In this study of ventriloquism, Connor follows his subject from its early beginnings in ancient Israel and Greece, its role in mysticism and witchcraft, through to modern entertainment.
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