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Hearing Things

Hearing Things

The Work of Sound in Literature

Angela Leighton

ISBN 9780674983496

Publication date: 05/07/2018

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Hearing Things is a meditation on sound’s work in literature. Drawing on critical works and the commentaries of many poets and novelists who have paid close attention to the role of the ear in writing and reading, Angela Leighton offers a reconsideration of literature itself as an exercise in hearing.

An established critic and poet, Leighton explains how we listen to the printed word, while showing how writers use the expressivity of sound on the silent page. Although her focus is largely on poets—Alfred Tennyson, W. B. Yeats, Robert Frost, Walter de la Mare, Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, Jorie Graham, and Alice Oswald—Leighton’s scope includes novels, letters, and philosophical writings as well. Her argument is grounded in the specificity of the text under discussion, but one important message emerges from the whole: literature by its very nature commands listening, and listening is a form of understanding that has often been overlooked. Hearing Things offers a renewed call for the kind of criticism that, avoiding the programmatic or purely ideological, remains alert to the work of sound in every literary text.


  • Angela Leighton’s Hearing Things is as good as her previous book on poetic form—which is to say it’s terrific—and illuminates a great deal about the sound effects of poetry that cannot be disentangled from its page-sense.

    —Andrew Motion, The Guardian


  • Angela Leighton is Professor of English and Senior Research Fellow at Trinity College, University of Cambridge.

Book Details

  • 304 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press