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Loudness and Suspense in 19th Century Fiction

On Monday, November 14, Svenja Guhr, who has been visiting the lab this quarter, will present some of the work that she has undertaken during her time with us. Her talk is called “Loudness and Suspense in 19th Century Fiction.”

In a sound studies approach to a literary studies use case, she analyzes whether there is a correlation between the diegetic description of environmental sounds and suspenseful text passages in a 19th century English novel corpus. Drawing on theories of suspense in literary fiction and some findings from the 2014-2018 Literary Lab Project "Suspense: Language, Narrative, Affect", she argues that suspenseful passages contain more detailed descriptions of the story’s environmental soundscape than unsuspenseful passages (e.g., the growl of a wild animal, the creaking of a wooden floor in a silent room) which consequently stretches out the story and delays the resolution of the conflict, increasing the degree of suspense in literary text.