Sounds of Silence

121A :  Literary Themes, Genres, Structures
Fall 2023
Class No: 31172
51 Evans Hall
Liesl Yamaguchi
1:00 PM - 1:59 PM

Coercive claims about silence abound in today’s divisive political atmosphere. “Silence is complicity!” “Silence implies consent!” And even “Silence is violence.” But how do we determine what silence “is,” does, or means? An ethics of interpretation seems particularly elusive when it comes to language that, by definition, is not there. In this course, we will read our way through literary texts that foreground silence as a means of investigating how the absence of language is made to signify. We will focus our attention on silent characters, poetic pauses, and pointed omissions, inflecting our inquiry with codified legal interpretations of silence as well as linguistic studies of turn-taking and ellipsis. Topics to be covered include the cultural specificity of silence, the syntax of silence, silence and gender, silence and subalternity, silencing, silence and power, and silence in poetry. Conducted in French.

Sounds of Silence course image