Editor’s Introduction

  • Irit Ruth Kleiman
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


This is a book of essays about the values, functions, and paradoxes medieval thinkers attached to the sonorous, human voice, in theory and in practice. The categories of voice and voicelessness were deeply embedded in medieval definitions of the human, as they remain for contemporary thinkers such as Jacques Lacan or Stanley Cavell. For medieval thinkers, as for these and other recent authors, the compelling omnipresence of Voice as a topos in Western traditions frequently rendered elusive the quest to define its precise boundaries and functions. The chapters in this volume confront a series of interlocking questions about how the philosophy, theology, and aesthetics of the voice inhabit and animate the Middle Ages. They ask what it means to “possess a voice”—or be without one—and seek to articulate how the concepts of voice and voicelessness operate within distinct domains of medieval Christian culture as social and legal categories, as aesthetic terms, within theological and political doctrines, or as a site of tension in the negotiation between subjectivity and authority. Together, they demonstrate how our understanding of the Middle Ages can be deepened and enriched through engagement with theological and philosophical debates over voice and voicelessness, whether ancient, medieval, or contemporary.


Western Tradition Human Voice Vocal Sound Book VIII Political Doctrine 
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  1. 1.
    Aristotle, Politics, I.2, trans. Benjamin Jowett (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921). Cited from Scholar
  2. 2.
    Aristotle, De Anima, II.8.420b5 and II.8.420b27 in Aristotle, De Anima Books II and III, trans. D. W. Hamlyn (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993, 2002), 32–33.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Aristotle, The History of Animals, Book IV, Part 9; cited from The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation, ed. Jonathan Barnes, vol. 1 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  4. One pertinent study that unites these strands is J.-L. Labarrière, Langage, vie politique et mouvement des animaux: Etudes aristotéliciennes (Paris: Vrin, 2004).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See especially, Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography, 2nd edition, with an epilogue (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000);Google Scholar
  6. Pierre Courcelle, Recherches sur les Confessions de Saint Augustin (Paris: E. de Boccard, 1950, 2nd. expanded ed. 1968);Google Scholar
  7. M. B. Pranger, Eternity’s Ennui: Temporality, Perseverance and Voice in Augustine and Western Literature (Leiden: Brill, 2010);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. and Brian Stock, Augustine the Reader: Meditation, Self-Knowledge, and the Ethics of Interpretation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  9. On language, and especially voice, see in particular Peter King, “Augustine on Language,” in The Cambridge Companion to Augustine, 2nd edition, ed. David Vincent Meconi and Eleonore Stump (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 292–310;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Anne-Isabelle Bouton-Touboulic, “La voix de la vérité, un élément de démonstration chez saint Augustin,” Pallas 69 (2005): 179–93;Google Scholar
  11. and Anne-Isabelle Bouton-Touboulic, “Augustin et le corps de la voix,” Cahiers philosophiques 122 (2010): 43–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 6.
    On this topic, see also Pierre Courcelle, “Les ‘Voix’ dans les Confessions de Saint Augustin,” Hermes 80.1 (1952): 31–46;Google Scholar
  13. and William North, “Hearing Voices in Late Antiquity: An Aural Approach to Augustine’s Confessions,” in The Middle Ages in Texts and Texture: Reflections on Medieval Sources, ed. Jason Glenn (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011), 7–20.Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    See also Rowan Williams, “Augustine and the Psalms,” Interpretation 58 (2004): 17–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 22.
    Jean de Joinville, Vie de Saint Louis §122, ed. J. Monfrin (Paris: Librairie Générale Française, 2002), 220.Google Scholar
  16. 24.
    On this topos, see Adriana Cavarero, For More than One Voice: Toward a Philosophy of Vocal Expression, trans. Paul A. Kottan (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005), 20–23.Google Scholar

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© Irit Ruth Kleiman 2015

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  • Irit Ruth Kleiman

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