Vox ex machina : towards a digital poetics of the disembodied voice

O'Donnell-Smith, Daniel (2017) Vox ex machina : towards a digital poetics of the disembodied voice. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the notion of ‘voice’ in relation to contemporary poetics and the digital arts. It is a practice-based project that produces a theoretical and creative space in which a theory of the ‘voice of the machine’ is discovered and tested. Through a series of research chapters and critical reflections this thesis tests ideas of dictation, translation, inscription and embodiment using the poetic device of the disembodied — or acousmatic — voice as a fundamental theoretical framework, which in turn informs my practice. I begin with a study of Jack Spicer’s book After Lorca, a collection of translated poems that are dictated to Spicer by the ghost of Federico García Lorca. Using the work of Mladen Dolar, I explore the idea of the acousmatic voice and the processes of translation that emerge from this when one is in communion with the dead. From this I identify a ‘network of tradition’: Spicer’s matrix of historical, poetic associations to which belongs W.B. Yeats, another poet who used spirit dictation in composition. I focus on the practice of Yeats’s wife, George, who, acting as a medium, produced hundreds of manuscripts of automatic writing and drawing. Through a study of Johanna Drucker’s notion of graphesis, via discussions on choreography, I establish George Yeats as a spiritual writing machine whose practice works as an acoustic register of ghostly dictation and audition. I consider the idea of katabasis — an Orphic descent to retrieve a voice — that underpins Spicer’s poetics in After Lorca and I use this as a catalyst to enact gestures of archival katabasis — in pursuit of George Yeats — and what I term as the kata_BASIC, which is a descent into the machine to retrieve its voice. Using the random-chance poetics of Jackson Mac Low as a practice methodology I understand the voice of the machine to be an expression of its agency and computational processes, which are materialised in machine-mediated interventions such as the glitch. The practice I produce in this project — poetry, objects, video and sound — tests ideas of translation, acoustic imagery, hybridity and transcreation in light of the idea of a shared voice of collaboration that exists between the machine and the archived or disembodied voices that it (re)mediates.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: School of Arts > English & Humanities
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2017 17:32
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2017 17:32
URI: http://bbktheses.da.ulcc.ac.uk/id/eprint/285

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