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By David Nowell Smith

What can we suggest by means of 'voice' in poetry? during this paintings, David Nowell Smith teases out the varied meanings of 'voice', from a poem's soundworld to the rhetorical gestures by which poems converse to us, so as to embark on a philosophical exploration of the concept that of voice itself.

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Ellipsis arises precisely where the refrain already determines silence: the silence is thus, as it were, filled with 44 On Voice in Poetry syntax just as syntax gestures towards an excess over the syntactic organisation of voice into language. It is into ellipsis that language breaks off. At this juncture, vocal excess is registered not sonorously, but rather as a metrical-syntactic silence. Silent, but also visual: the em-dashes are not just syntactical gestures but marks on the page: vocal sound replaced by textual ‘noise’.

36 It functions precisely by interrupting the thetic-symbolic process of devocalisation: ‘the unsettled and questionable subject of poetic language (for whom the world is never uniquely sign) maintains itself at the cost of reactivating this repressed, instinctual, maternal element’ (p. 136). This is art not as philosophy’s regulatory ‘other’, but as its potentially revolutionary ‘other’, not covering up the unthought but opening fissures through which the unthought is brought into the realm of thinking.

Pp. 65–66) And of those aspects of human language which aspire to evoke this musicality, by contrast – song, poetry, oratory, or gesture: Condillac, Rousseau, and others were half on the right track here in that they derive the meter and song of the oldest languages from the cry of sensation—and without doubt sensation did indeed enliven the first sounds and elevate them. But since from the mere sounds of sensation human language could never have arisen, though this song certainly was such a language, something more is still needed in order to produce this song—and that was precisely the naming of each creature in accordance with its own language.

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