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Listening to the City


Event Summary

Photo by Max Herman

All of the complex interlacing of aural order and disorder, harmony and dissonance, noise and silence that characterized the late medieval and Renaissance city pervade the era’s most popular narratives, from the most erudite literature to the most popular stories. In this talk, Niall Atkinson (University of Chicago) argued that sonic themes drive narratives in which a profound anxiety about justice, insurrection, salvation, gossip, lies, and rumors was deployed as an investigative device to understand the social and spatial relationships of a highly fractious and hierarchical city. They highlighted the contentious negotiations between sonic, spatial, and social order as a way to dismantle, probe, and lampoon, reinforce or even reconfigure the institutions and norms that were never assumed as a natural system. Highly sensitive to the correlation of space and social status established by sound, such narratives allow the historian to bind the social foundations and the symbolic dimensions of the built environment in ways that are not always apparent in the conventional architectural documentary record.

This talk was sponsored by the Interwoven research project at the Neubauer Collegium.