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Journal Articles Les Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales (English Edition) Year : 2017

A History of Silences



This paper, grounded in a critical reading of Alain Corbin’s recent History of Silence , proposes a twofold development. The first part is methodological, arguing for the necessity of studying the acoustic phenomena of the past in a way that is distinct from emotion and does not focus solely on conveying experience. The historiography of the notion of “soundscapes,” invented by musicologist Raymond Murray Schafer, is used to assess the contribution of “sound studies,” “sensory history,” and the anthropology of the senses. The heuristic capacities of this notion are emphasized, as is the need to locate it within a coherent topographical and chronological framework. The second section of the article develops a case study based on these methodological prescriptions, focusing on silence in the religious rites of ancient Rome. The acoustic frame of ritual perfection, silentium was also a category of Roman religious law and very far from the quest for interiority and spiritual life that Corbin considers a natural part of silence. An analysis of the nature and function of silence in two different rites, taking the auspices and sacrifice, confirms the need for a thorough and contextualized historical approach to acoustic phenomena: behind a unified terminology lie two radically different acoustic realities.
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halshs-03446637 , version 1 (24-11-2021)



Alexandre Vincent. A History of Silences. Les Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales (English Edition), 2017, 72 (3), pp.385-409. ⟨10.1017/ahsse.2020.1⟩. ⟨halshs-03446637⟩
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