Viktoria Tkaczyk: Thinking with Sound – A New Program in the Sciences and Humanities around 1900

Viktoria Tkaczyk is Professor of Media and Knowledge in the Department of Media Studies at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

Thinking with Sound undertakes a historicisation of auditory neuroscience, an interdisciplinary field of research that is currently expanding rapidly. The book traces how the identification of the auditory cortex in the neuroanatomy of the 1860s inspired very different disciplines to new theories of a “thinking in sound images”.

Ferdinand de Saussure interpreted the “acoustic image” as the key to human language, Sigmund Freud approached the human psyche via the auditory unconscious, for Henri Bergson imaginary sounds proved the independence of the mind from physical perception, Ernst Mach declared comparative listening to be the central method of experimental physics, Carl Stumpf started from culturally shaped ideas of sound and used them for comparative cultural studies.

In its various forms, the topos of “thinking in sound images” connected an academic landscape at the turn of the 20th century that split into increasingly specialised fields of research. In the process, disciplines in the humanities and natural sciences exerted a literally disciplining influence on the ways of speaking, listening and thinking of their time – supported by numerous new media technologies, but also closely linked to colonial, imperial and national political programmes.

Further information about the publication.