Cover image for I see a voice : deafness, language, and the senses--a philosophical history
I see a voice : deafness, language, and the senses--a philosophical history
Rée, Jonathan, 1948-
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Metropolitan Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
xvi, 399 pages : illustrations, facsimiles ; 25 cm
General Note:
"Originally published in the United Kingdom in 1999 by Harper Collins"--T.p. verso.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV2380 .R38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
HV2380 .R38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
HV2380 .R38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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A groundbreaking study of deafness, by a philosopher who combines the scientific erudition of Oliver Sacks with the historical flair of Simon Schama.

There is nothing more personal than the human voice, traditionally considered the expression of the innermost self. But what of those who have no voice of their own and cannot hear the voices of others?

In this tour de force of historical narrative, Jonathan Rée tells the astonishing story of the deaf, from the sixteenth century to the present. Rée explores the great debates about deafness between those who believed the deaf should be made to speak and those who advocated non-oral communication. He traces the botched attempts to make language visible, through such exotic methods as picture writing, manual spellings, and vocal photography. And he charts the tortuous progress and final recognition of sign systems as natural languages in their own right.

I See a Voice escorts us on a vast and eventful intellectual journey,taking in voice machines and musical scales, shorthand and phonetics, Egyptian hieroglyphs, talking parrots, and silent films. A fascinating tale of goodwill subverted by bad science, I See a Voice is as learned and informative as it is delightful to read.

Author Notes

Jonathan Ree teaches philosophy at Middlesex University. A reviewer for "The Times Literary Supplement" & "The London Review of Books," he is also the author of "Philosophical Tales" & "Heidegger." He lives in Oxford, England.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

It has long been understood that the communicative gestures used by non-hearing people constitute more than a languageÄthere is, in fact, a deaf culture, rich in evocation, style, meaning. R‚e (professor of philosophy at the University of Middlesex and editor of Radical Philosophy) brings us a stunning account of deafness from the 16th century to the present. His compelling chapters draw upon metaphysics, science, history and philosophy as they touch upon such areas as grammar, sound and the uncanny resonances of inarticulate human sounds; time, syntax and the language of nature; signs and primitive culture; and space, time and the aesthetic theory of art, among much else. Graphics from a variety of eras and cultures enrich this exceptionally comprehensive volume. R‚e (who is not deaf) uses everyday experiences to buttress what might be abstract points. He is equally adept at exploring the science of deaf culture: "The mere fact that signers can make different linguistic signs simultaneously with each hand, and possibly with other parts of the body as well, means that any Sign Language script will have to be written in more than one string of charactersÄmore like polyphony than a single vocal line." Mixing the erudite with the experiential, R‚e gives the reader a new understanding of deafness as possibility. Though densely written, this is a book that rewards patient attention: it is both useful in the classroom and a passionate experience for the intellectual, curious reader. Illus. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved