Listening: Sonority and Subjectivity



Sound, resonance and subjectivity are the focus of this chapter, which explores a form of theatre in the dark that harnesses the affective movement of sound. Extant theatre, the UK’s leading company making work for and by the visually impaired, has undertaken research into theatre sound that can move its audience, literally, through an immersive performance experience. Using forms of technology which are in many ways the inverse of headphone theatre, they equip the body of the audience yet leave the ear open. Armed instead with haptic technology, Extant’s production Flatland is an exploration of how sound in all its sonorous, sensual and sensitising potential can form the audience experience; how it not only moves us, but can allow us to move. Drawing on Jean-Luc Nancy’s seminal thesis of listening and his theories of touch, hapticity and syncope, this chapter demonstrates how sound in theatre generates a form of resonance, a movement within listening that also brings forth a sense of self, as well as the other selves that may be sensed. This analysis suggests an understanding of audience as a form of corps sonore that is formed through sonority, how our engagement in sound brings us into intersubjectivity through the audience experience.


  1. Abbott, Edwin A. 1992 [1884]. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. New York: Dover Publications.Google Scholar
  2. Achtman, Michael. 2015. Flatland: An Adventure in Many Dimensions, dir. Maria Oshodi. London: Extant Theatre Company.Google Scholar
  3. Cavallo, Amelia. 2015. Seeing the Word, Hearing the Image: The Artistic Possibilities of Audio Description in Theatrical Performance. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance 20 (1): 124–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Derrida, Jacques. 2005. On Touching—Jean-Luc Nancy, trans. Christine Irizarry. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Heikkilä, Martta. 2008. At the Limits of Presentation: Coming-into-presence and its Aesthetic Relevance in Jean-Luc Nancy’s Philosophy. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  6. Hosokawa, Shuhei. 2012. The Walkman Effect. In The Sound Studies Reader, ed. Jonathan Sterne. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Hutchens, B.C. 2005. Jean-Luc Nancy and the Future of Philosophy. Chesham: Acumen.Google Scholar
  8. James, Ian. 2006. The Fragmentary Demand. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Janus, Adrienne. 2011. Listening: Jean-Luc Nancy and the “Anti-Ocular” Turn in Continental Philosophy and Critical Theory. Comparative Literature 63 (2): 182–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kane, Brian. 2012. Jean-Luc Nancy and the Listening Subject. Contemporary Music Review 31 (5–6): 439–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Machon, Josephine. 2013. Immersive Theatres: Intimacy and Immediacy in Contemporary Performance. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  12. McTighe, Trish. 2013. The Haptic Aesthetic in Samuel Beckett’s Drama. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Mijatović, Aleksandar. 2010. Division of Touch: Distinct in Jean-Luc Nancy and Jacques Derrida. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17: 17. Accessed 14 May 2016.
  14. Nancy, Jean-Luc. 2000. Being Singular Plural. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Nancy, Jean-Luc. 2007. Listening, trans. Charlotte Mandell. New York: Fordham University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Nancy, Jean-Luc. 2008a. The Discourse of the Syncope: Logodaedalus. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Nancy, Jean-Luc. 2008b. Ascoltando. In Listen: A History of our Ears, ed. Peter Szendy. New York: Fordham University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Nancy, Jean-Luc. 2014. After Tragedy In Encounters in Performance Philosophy, ed. Laura Cull and Alice Lagaay. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  19. Rugo, Daniele. 2013. Jean-Luc Nancy and the Thinking of Otherness: Philosophy and Powers of Existence. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  20. Schulze, Holger. 2013. The Corporeality of Listening, Experiencing Soundscapes on Audio Guides. In Soundscapes of the Urban Past: Staged Sound as Mediated Cultural Heritage, ed. Karin Bijsterveld. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.Google Scholar
  21. Spiers., A., J. van der Linden., M. Oshodi, and A. Dollar. 2015. First Validation of the Haptic Sandwich: A Shape Changing Handheld Haptic Navigation Aid. IEEE International Conference on Advanced Robotics, ICAR: 2015. Accessed 14 July 2016.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Royal Central School of Speech and DramaLondonUK

Personalised recommendations