Course Info


ENSP 8559 | Thursdays 3:30-6:00p | Cocke Hall 101

Instructor: Dr. Steph Ceraso | | Office: Bryan 304-A

Office Hours: Tues 2-4p + Thurs 11-12p + by appt.



What does it mean to have a “voice” as a writer or critic? How do notions of voice change when we think of writers and critics as authors of analogue or digital media? In this seminar we will explore key theories and concepts of voice in writing and media, focusing on questions of authenticity, embodiment, identity, performance, disability, ethics, and more. The goal of this course is to trace the evolution of voice as a metaphor in writing to an audible compositional material in digital media. Graduate students interested in literary writing and criticism will acquire critical frameworks for understanding voice in traditional and electronic literature, student writing, and their own writing.



-identify, describe, and apply key theories of voice in relation to alphabetic writing and various media

-make connections between course readings on voice and your own writing, reading, and teaching practices

-learn to design and produce basic digital audio projects

-develop a research project that enriches and builds upon your existing scholarly interests

-recognize the value of voice as a compositional material that can enhance digital scholarship and creative work


Required Course Texts

Dominic Pettman. Sonic Intimacy: Voice, Species, Technics (or, How to Listen to the World). Stanford University Press, 2017.

Norie Neumark, Ross Gibson, and Theo van Leeuwen, Eds. Voice: Vocal Aesthetics in Digital Arts and Media. The MIT Press, 2010.

Steven Connor. Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism. Oxford University Press, 2001.

Additional readings will be provided as links or PDFs [all course PDFs are located in Collab under “Resources”]


Assignments/Grading Breakdown

30%: Weekly Writing: Each week you will post a 300-500 word response to the course readings on our Collab site (using the “Forums” feature). These short weekly writing exercises should be used to help you think through some of the ideas or questions that emerged from your reading. You might focus on a particular quotation or concept, for instance. Please don’t summarize the readings; instead, expand upon, relate to, interrogate, and wrestle with them. These posts will not be graded individually but will receive a holistic grade at the end of the term.

30%: Voice Autobiography: This assignment, due mid-semester, requires you to script and record an autobiography of your own voice. Your script should consider what your voice communicates about your life, your embodied identity (e.g. you might take up the kind of inquiries about race, gender, class, etc. that the course readings explore). The final product should be a 5-6 minute audio recording that will be played for the class. I’m only requiring a simple audio narrative (a recording of yourself reading), though of course I welcome more ambitious, experimental work with regard to the format or sound design. You may use any digital audio editor you wish, but I will provide you with detailed instructions about Audacity, a free digital audio editing platform. More specific guidelines will be provided.

40%: Final Project + Audio Performance: Your final project for this course is up to you. You may want to develop a traditional research paper, a conference paper, an annotated bibliography, a digital piece or podcast, a syllabus or other kinds of teaching materials, or something else. You should choose a project that will be interesting and useful to you at this moment in your graduate studies. The only requirement is that your project must have an audio component that in some way compliments, performs, or enacts the ideas that your project explores. We will be discussing various possibilities in class, and you will also receive feedback on a 1-2 page project proposal. At the end of semester, you will present an abbreviated version of your textual project along with the digital audio piece you designed. Stay tuned for more details!


Policies + Resources

Attendance: This is a small, once-a-week seminar that depends on each member’s presence, preparedness, and full participation. Therefore, I expect you to be at every meeting. If you do have to miss for any reason, please notify me so we can talk about how to make up the class. Excessive absences will negatively affect your final grade and may result in failure of the course.

Assistance: Your success in this class is important to me. If there are any circumstances that may affect your performance in this class, please let me know as soon as possible so we can work together to develop strategies that address your needs and enable you to meet the requirements of the course. I am always happy to assist you in any way I can. If you are in need of official university learning accommodations, please email the Student Disability Access Center at You can also find information about CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) by visiting their website. To set up an appointment, call 434-243-5150 or stop by the Student Health Center located at 400 Brandon Ave.

Academic Integrity: As scholars, academic integrity is one of our major responsibilities. If you quote or paraphrase the words of another in any writing or audio assignment you submit for this course, you must cite your sources. Plagiarism may result in a failing grade for an assignment, a failing grade for the course, or even dismissal from the university. If you are unsure about what constitutes academic fraud, see the Honor Committee’s statement here: I’m also always available to talk with you about any issues or questions regarding citation.


Additional Student Resources:

For students who feel unsafe:

Also, the LGBTQ Center and Multicultural Student Center in LL Newcomb are welcoming spaces.

For students who feel distressed: Counseling and Psychological Services (daytime: 434-243-5150; after hours: 434-297-4261), located in the Student Health building on Brandon Avenue

University Police Department (non-emergency: 434-924-7166; emergency: 911), located at 2304 Ivy Road

Office of the Dean of Students (434-924-7133), located in Peabody Hall, including ODOS Multicultural Student Services staff (434-924-9250), located on the lower level of Newcomb Hall

Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (434-924-7179), temporarily located in the lower level of Madison Hall

Office of African-American Affairs (434-924-7923), located on Dawson’s Row

Students and community members can also call Madison House’s student-led “HelpLine”: 434-295-TALK