Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Stecopoulos, Harilaos

First Committee Member

Round, Phillip

Second Committee Member

Fox, Claire

Third Committee Member

Diffley, Kathleen

Fourth Committee Member

Glass, Loren


My dissertation, The Endless Roar in which We Live: The Figure of Noise in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Fiction is the first extended study that locates an intersection between sound studies and literary studies in order to examine noise as it defines spaces and places, and the characters that live and work in them, in American literature from the second half of the nineteenth century through the beginning of the twentieth century. I evaluate noise in a sampling of American fiction, and consider how the imagined sounds of fiction echo nineteenth-century soundscapes and underscore contemporary discernment of noises – and sometimes the lack of noises – in the national consciousness. I consider the street noise that the upper classes wished away, the factory noise that so many women workers spent a lifetime hearing, and the resounding noise of the United States’ expansion westward.

Conversely, I also consider how authors and characters respond to the noises that penetrate their ears and create their soundscapes. Together, these considerations shape my argument that sounds help to construct and characterize localities, just as certain places construct particular sounds. Moreover, however, I argue that noise creates spaces wherein identities – such as those of gender, class, and ethnicity – also often tied to place, are discovered, defined, and challenged. In many ways, classifications of noise are subjective and varied, depending on who makes and who hears the noise, where and why the noise is produced, and how and by whom is the noise interpreted. Considering noise as malleable and interpretable based on context allows me to most effectively examine noise as a facilitator of identity formation.


Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, nineteenth century, noise, sound studies


x, 199 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 190-199).


Copyright © 2015 Christine Norquest