Audiobooks as Artifacts

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  • Title: Audiobooks as Artifacts: Listening for Classification and Appreciation
  • Author(s): David Sheinberg
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Information, Medium & Society
  • Keywords: Audiobooks, Spoken Word, Sound Recordings, Media Studies, Aesthetics, Appreciation, Philosophy of the Arts, New Institutional Theory, Performance Studies, Storytelling, Voice Acting, Sound Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, Mixed Media, Reading vs. Listening, Internal Logic, Informed Intuition, Literary Criticism, Comparative Literature, Close Listening, Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn, Samuel Beckett, Molloy, Barry Humphries, Dame Edna, Autobiography, Identity, First-Person Narrative, Casting.
  • Date: June 19, 2024
  • ISBN (hbk): 978-1-963049-35-0
  • ISBN (pbk): 978-1-963049-36-7
  • ISBN (pdf): 978-1-963049-37-4
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Sheinberg, David. 2024. Audiobooks as Artifacts: Listening for Classification and Appreciation. Common Ground Research Networks. doi:10.18848/978-1-963049-37-4/CGP.
  • Extent: 260 pages

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Their ever-evolving popularity notwithstanding, audiobooks remain a rather undertheorized phenomenon. The prevailing handful of existing studies seem to have adopted an inherently historicist approach, which fails to identify and scrutinize their aesthetic importance. Thus, rather than regarding them as mere recorded ‘versions’ of existing literary works, this book explores them as the unique products of a hitherto undefined artistic genre. As performance-based aural artefacts, the very act of listening to them is rendered an aesthetic experience in its own right. By effectively embracing an interdisciplinary approach and introducing a set of aesthetic questions and philosophical conundrums (ignited by a paradigmatic application of the New Institutional Theory of Art), this study establishes a new aesthetic category—which, in turn, not only classifies audiobooks as artworks to all intents and purposes, but also generates the criteria and parameters for evaluating their merit. Since the proof of the proverbial pudding is purportedly in the eating, in surveying a series of concrete case studies—each highlighting different degrees of complexities—this study mainly examines first-person narratives as the most natural medium for the aesthetics of the audiobook. As such, the investigation herein provides one with comparative close listenings, appropriately analyzing and debating their aesthetic properties. Finally, in exploring what this study identifies as one’s informed intuition and its role in the craft of casting audiobooks, this study also proposes a new understating of how aesthetic appreciation works in action.