Sounding Madness: The Ethics of Listening in Janet Frame's Faces in the Water
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Sounding Madness: The Ethics of Listening in Janet Frames Faces in the Water is a transdisciplinary sonic exploration of the historical, cultural, and theoretical concerns surrounding electroshocks (AKA electroconvulsive therapy or ECT) impact on memory, its controversial accusations of erasure and its current revival as a miracle (Peck 2) treatment for complex trauma (PTSD). My project employs sound as a verb (Voegelin 17) for voicing claims of memory erasure (Andre 6) by women ECT survivors that have been named groundless (Fink 17) by psychiatrists. To do so, I propose a sonic interpretation of Janet Frames 1961 novel Faces in the Water, a fictional account of her twelve-year stay in New Zealand mental institutions and 200 electroshock treatments in the late 1940s-1950s, because it depicts a rich sonic landscape of shock (treatment as trauma) and madness as a new kind of music (77). Since Frame prioritizes sound as a literary device, I weave her voice within a larger historical sonic context, dating back to Victorian medical electricity, the soundscape of the asylum and the sounds of contemporary Mad activism. Utilizing sound art as a Research-Creation method that employs and embodies diverse theories of listening (from psychoanalytic to phenomenological), I aim to create a sonic space for listening otherwise (Levinas, Lispari, Voegelin, Todd) towards Mad dialogical and epistemological justice.