Plutarch tells the story of a man who plucked a nightingale and finding but little to eat exclaimed: "You are just a voice and nothing more." Plucking the feathers of meaning that cover the voice, dismantling the body from which the voice seems to emanate, resisting the Sirens' song of fascination with the voice, concentrating on "the voice and nothing more": this is the difficult task that philosopher Mladen Dolar relentlessly pursues in this seminal work.
The voice did not figure as a major philosophical topic until the 1960s, when Derrida and Lacan separately proposed it as a central theoretical concern. In A Voice and Nothing More Dolar goes beyond Derrida's idea of "phonocentrism" and revives and develops Lacan's claim that the voice is one of the paramount embodiments of the psychoanalytic object (objet a). Dolar proposes that, apart from the two commonly understood uses of the voice as a vehicle of meaning and as a source of aesthetic admiration, there is a third level of understanding: the voice as an object that can be seen as the lever of thought. He investigates the object voice on a number of different levels—the linguistics of the voice, the metaphysics of the voice, the ethics of the voice (with the voice of conscience), the paradoxical relation between the voice and the body, the politics of the voice—and he scrutinizes the uses of the voice in Freud and Kafka. With this foundational work, Dolar gives us a philosophically grounded theory of the voice as a Lacanian object-cause.
About the Author
Mladen Dolar taught for 20 years in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, where he now works as a Senior Research Fellow. He is the author of a number of books, most recently (with Slavoj Zizek) Opera’s Second Death.
"It takes a certain intrepid curiosity to pick up a book that is not of one's universe-to plunge into an in-depth examination of a common phenomenon. But the payoff can be huge: a new meaning, new resonance accruing to something one previously paid barely any attention to. A Voice and Nothing More is such a book-a deeply academic yet readable inquiry into the nature of voice and its role as a bridge between nature and culture, subject and other, body and language, the personal and the political....Again, no worries: There will be no final exam; this is just life, examined carefully."—Los Angeles Times Book Review
"The most telling, even thrilling, passages in this exacting book emphasize the intricate knitting together of body and soul in the voice....Though A Voice and Nothing More is driven throughout by ardent and formidable intelligence, Dolar is, like George Meridith's a 'Later Alexandrian,' mad for the kind of 'mystic wryness' that Lacanian theory so amply allows. Indeed, the last words of his book make it clear that he regards the mysteries of the voice as a kind of royal road to the Secret Doctrine of Psychoanalysis.", Steven Connor, Bookforum
"Mladen Dolar has a splendid and luminous philosophical mind and demonstrates again that the teachings of Lacan generate much more than some merely psychoanalytic reading of texts. This remarkable study of the voice and its sonority overturns all of our preconceived notions in the most stunning fashion, with consequences for ethics and politics fully as much as for literature and music. Few recent theoretical works have had this originality or power."
—Fredric Jameson, William A. Lane, Jr., Professor of Comparative Literature, Duke University
"Mladen Dolar's book breaks through the impasse of extrinsic vs. intrinsic accounts of the voice, and shows how they fail to get at its truly uncanny topology and its strange persistence within and beyond the multiple significations it carries. Firmly rooted in Lacan and Freud, his argument passes through an extraordinary range of texts on voice, from Plato and Augustine to Kafka, Lewis Carroll, and Charlie Chaplin. Dolar's readings are strong, lucid, and convincing, and he writes with a warm wit and intelligence that are entirely his own. He has written, without a doubt, the definitive book on the topic."
—Kenneth Reinhard, Departments of English and Comparative Literature, University of California, Los Angeles
"In his first Duino Elegy—and in a strophe dedicated to the hearing of voices—Rilke speaks of 'the ceaseless message that forms itself from silence.' In this tour de force of philosophical engagement with our acoustic universe, Mladen Dolar has given us the key to this message, to what it means to be genuinely responsive to it. Our understanding of language, ethics, politics, philosophy, and aesthetic experience will never be the same."
—Eric L. Santner, Chair, Department of Germanic Studies, University of Chicago
"Mladen Dolar acts as if he is not an idiot and looks as if he is not an idiot, but this should not deceive you—he is NOT an idiot!"