Ear and Eye/Sound and Sight

ISHA Fall 2001

For Fall 2001 our seminar topic was ‘Ear and Eye/Sound and Sight’. Prospective participants were asked to consider a range of questions, including the following:

How does it matter that an experience is seen or heard? Visual and aural experience may differ in their epistemological, aesthetic, cultural or historical value. Physically, sounds must take place and change over time, whereas visual events can be instantaneous and static. How does this fundamental difference affect our response to and creation of auditory vs visual experiences? How does choosing a mode of expression alter what we seek to express? Does ‘sensuous’ differ in meaning when looking at a painting vs hearing a song? If one sense is dulled, is the other more sensitive? How readily does a sense experience cross modalities? Is it possible to paint with words, to create visual poems?

How does music accompany or relate to text, performance or movie? How do oral and written literatures differ, and do we value them differently? Is the text we see on the page transformed into inner speech? Does a signed language differ fundamentally from a spoken language? What is stored in memory when one hears a sound, sees a picture? Do historical events and their significance differ if we come to know about them through our eyes or ears? How have different periods valued or constructed seeing and/or hearing? How do different cultures do so? How has seeing and/or hearing changed through and in relation to technology?

Our call for applications resulted in a wide range of stimulating reponses, involving variously, the disciplines of anthropology, music, communication, theatre history, writing, art, as well as others. Here is a list of participants in the seminar, with a short description of their projects. Please feel free to contact them.


Doris Bargen 
Asian Languages and Literatures
‘Screened Sight and Sound in Classical Japanese Courtly Culture.’ 

Peter Elbow
Department of English
The Oral/Aural Dimensions of Writing.’ 

Henry Gonzales Geddes 
Department of Communication

Arthur Kinney
Department of English

William Moebius
Comparative Literature

David Samuels

Department of Anthropology

Joyce Smar
Fine Arts Center