Sounding Surrealist Historiography: Listening to 'Concrete Island'

Article English OPEN
Baxter, Jeannette (2016)

What does Ballardian inner space sound like? Starting from this question, I lend an ear to Concrete Island ([1974] 1985), the second of Ballard’s ‘concrete and steel trilogy’, and the most sonorous of his inner-space fictions. Paying particular attention to the sound-space-matter interface of Concrete Island, I explore how the text’s soundscape engages in a process of Surrealist historiography; that is, a counter-historical process of enquiry that, if we listen to it, mobilises alternative ways of thinking about the inter-animating presences of history, subjectivity, memory and technology in postwar culture. In this respect, Concrete Island builds on the counter-historical impulses of preceding short stories and novels, such as The Atrocity Exhibition (1970) and Crash ([1973] 1995), which force the reader into visual confrontations with postwar histories. But it does so by opening Ballard’s predominantly visual mode of Surrealist historiography up to questions of sound, noise and aurality. Drawing on related writings by André Breton and Jean Luc Nancy, a reader with a keen ear for Surrealism, I explore the importance of hearing, sound and aurality alongside vision in the shaping of the modern self. I then consider Concrete Island’s soundscape in relation to two forms of visual archive on display throughout the novel: a visual archive of the forgotten past; and a visual archive of an exhausted future. Bringing Ballard’s soundscape and visual archives into dialogue, I suggest, might just make room for forgotten histories to sound in ways that encourage us to see ourselves and our histories differently.
  • References (25)
    25 references, page 1 of 3

    Amis, M. (1996) 'Cronenberg's Monster: Review of Ballard's Crash and Cronenberg's film adaptation'. Independent on Sunday, 10 November 1996. [Online] [Accessed 30 July 2015.]

    Ballard, J. (1985) Concrete Island. London: Panther.

    Ballard, J. (1995). Crash. London: Vintage.

    Ballard, J. (1996) 'The Coming of the Unconscious.' In User's Guide to the Millennium. London: Flamingo, pp. 84-88.

    Ballard, J. (2001) J. G. Ballard: The Complete Short Stories. London: Flamingo.

    Bonsall M. (2008) 'The Real Concrete Island?' Ballardian [Online] [Accessed 30 July 2015].

    Breton, A. (1972) Surrealism and Painting. S. Watson Taylor (trans). London: MacDonald.

    Breton, A. (1978) 'Silence is Golden.' In Rosemont, F. (ed) What is Surrealism? Selected Writings by André Breton. New York: Monad Press, pp. 265-269.

    Connor, S. (2004) 'Sound and the Self.' In Smith, M. (ed) Hearing History: A Reader. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, pp. 54-66.

    Defoe, D. (2008) Robinson Crusoe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Metrics
    views in OpenAIRE
    views in local repository
    downloads in local repository

    The information is available from the following content providers:

    From Number Of Views Number Of Downloads
    Anglia Ruskin Research Online - IRUS-UK 0 65
Share - Bookmark