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A Voice and Nothing More Mladen Dolar The MIT Press: 216 pp., $19.95

April 23, 2006|Susan Salter Reynolds

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: 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.

The voice is a fingerprint of sorts, and yet its imprint vanishes after meaning is conveyed, after the word, "the signifier," has been delivered. Philosopher Mladen Dolar considers the importance of timbre, intonation (including a particularly amusing anecdote about an actor who repeated the words "this evening" over and over, evoking more than 40 emotional scenarios with that simple phrase) and accent. He considers the efficacy of the voiceless Internet as a vehicle of communication. He explores the importance of what we call the inner voice or "inner oracle," the "touchstone of morality." Again, no worries: There will be no final exam; this is just life, examined carefully.

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