Photo: Bryony McIntyre

Craig Dworkin & Vanessa Place

A Handbook of Protocols for Literary Listening

Craig will give a guided reading of his handbook of exemplary instances of literary listening and will be joined by one of the selected authors, Vanessa Place.

Craig has edited a small handbook of exemplary instances of literary listening in radical, conceptual writing.  It will be free to pick up all week as part of a small installation.  For this event, Craig will give a guided reading of the text, joined by one of the selected authors, Vanessa Place.



Craig Dworkin is one of the leading conceptual writers, editors and chief theorists. His own brilliant work often takes medium-reflexivity to its impossible conclusion.  He runs Eclipse, an online archive of radical small-press writing from the last quarter century.  He’s published multiple books of poetry, articles, criticism and He has edited five volumes, including Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (2011) with Kenneth Goldsmith, The Sound of Poetry / The Poetry of Sound.


Vanessa Place  - Vanessa Place writes poetry, prose and art criticism; she is also a criminal lawyer and co-director of Les Figues Press.  Kenneth Goldsmith has called Place's work "arguably the most challenging, complex and controversial literature being written today." On Vanessa’s and Robert Fitterman’s Notes on Conceptualisms Mary Kelly said: "I learned more about the impact of conceptualism on artists and writers than I had from reading so-called canonical works on the subject."



Craig has undertaken a brief survey of listening practices as they can be found in literature: the results of this survey will be available as a small handbook.  For this event, Craig will give a kind of "guided reading" of the handbook; fleshing out some of the theoretical background a bit more and reading fuller versions of a few of the examples include in it.  For this reading Craig will be joined by Vanessa, who will read some of her works, as they are included in Craig’s survey.



From the intro to Craig’s handbook: “Some of the most innovative listening has been done by poets. The following handbook catalogues a repertoire of techniques for literary listening. It seeks to identify some of the specific tools with which poets have gauged and transformed the sonic effects of their linguistic environment. Suggestive rather than exhaustive, this guide is not an encyclopedia of practices. Indeed, the hope is that it will serve as a reminder of other examples, an inspiration for further writing, a provocation to further listening, and a locus of surprise (a word which derives in turn from the French surprendre: to overhear).”


Kinds of listening involved

As set out in Craig’s handbook…an index of literary listening:

Affinity - To hear connections

Agon - To hear the music of conflict

Antiphrasis - To hear one language as if it were another

Background - To hear the language of architecture and environment

Deposition - To playback recorded language in a different context

Dialect - To hear the intersection of class and place

Disambiguation - To hear what cannot be audibly distinguished

Echo - To hear repetition with slight variation

Ecouterism - To overhear

Error - To mishear

Filter - To hear only one side of a conversation

Fluency - To hear all speech as proper

Frequency - To hear statistics as grammar

Labor - To hear the work of language

Metrics - To hear measure

Negative Space - To hear the space between letters

Noise - To hear unwanted sounds

Phatics - To hear social tasks

Phonomnesis - To hear phonetic possibilities

Polyphony - To hear the range of a single letter

Sequence - To hear series

Shibboleth - To hear the violent borders of what cannot be said

The Unspeakable - To hear the unpronounceable

Prosthesis - To hear through mechanism

Ventriloquism - To hear mimicry

  • Craig Dworkin

  • Vanessa Place

  • Extract

    A Handbook of Literary Listening

    A survey, in some ways, always looks to vision. Etymologically, the word derives from the Latin super [over] + videre [to see], literally: to look upon, to look over (though not, of course, to overlook). But we might re-imagine a survey as a process of listening — as a kind of "overhearing" — transferring the survey's modes of attention to the aural realm. Such a practice would thus listen both broadly and closely, with comprehensive scope and statistical depth. As a practice of listening, one might redefine survey accordingly: to formally examine the sonic condition; to map the contours of sound; to hear in detail; to inspect the audible; to explore acoustically.