Unjacketed Hardcover


The Ambient Humanities

John Mowitt (Author)

Available worldwide

Unjacketed Hardcover, 184 pages
ISBN: 9780520284623
June 2015
$65.00, £55.00
Other Formats Available:
This is not a book about sound. It is a study of sounds that aims to write the resonance and response they call for. John Mowitt seeks to critique existing models in the expanding field of sound studies and draw attention to sound as an object of study that solicits a humanistic approach encompassing many types of sounds, not just readily classified examples such as speech, music, industrial sounds, or codified signals. Mowitt is particularly interested in the fact that beyond hearing and listening we “audit” sounds and do so by drawing on paradigms of thought not easily accommodated within the concept of "sound studies." To draw attention to the ways in which sounds often are not perceived for the social and political functions they serve, each chapter presents a culturally resonant sound—including a whistle, an echo, a gasp, and silence—to show how sounds enable critical social and political concepts such as dialogue, privacy, memory, social order, and art-making. Sounds: The Ambient Humanities significantly engages, provokes, and contributes to the dynamic field and inquiry of sound studies.


Works Cited
John Mowitt holds the Leadership Chair in the Critical Humanities at the University of Leeds. He is the author of several books, including Radio: Essays in Bad Reception, Percussion: Drumming, Beating, Striking, and Re-takes: Postcoloniality and Foreign Film Languages.
"Sounds is a call to criticism, an invocation that compels us or enables us to take a very different approach not so much to sound studies but rather to the work of criticism itself. The work consists of amplifying sonic aspects of the texts under consideration, aspects which barely exist yet are inescapably present, such that they might allow us to reconsider the works under consideration from a different perspective entirely."—Greg Hainge, author of Noise Matters: Towards an Ontology of Noise

"Sounds takes on a great significance as a theoretical practice that is also a foundation around which the field of sound studies can coalesce. Each chapter teases out political significance from the study of sound, offering novel approaches to fundamental questions about the relationships of human beings to themselves, to other humans, and to nonhuman animals. The sensitive readings of diverse individual texts are highly original and edifying."—Aden Evens, author of Sound Ideas: Music, Machines, and Experience

"This latest installment of John Mowitt’s impressive work on sounds—as they appear in literature, philosophy, cinema, music, and other cultural forms—exemplifies the sophistication of truly interdisciplinary humanistic scholarship. An inspiringly learned and nuanced work."—Rey Chow, author of Entanglements, or Transmedial Thinking about Capture

Join UC Press

Members receive 20-40% discounts on book purchases. Find out more