Christina Katopodis / English
Project: The Walden Soundscape
Christina Katopodis is a doctoral candidate in English at the Graduate Center CUNY, a Graduate Center Fellow, and an adjunct lecturer at Hunter College and New Jersey City University. She is currently studying the influences of music and sonic vibration on American Transcendentalism and Pragmatism, attending to deep listening in the nonhuman environment of Nineteenth-Century America. You can read her curriculum vitae here.
Recently, she received a research grant from the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society to view the Ellen Tucker Emerson Music Collection at the Concord Public Library, and a Provost’s Digital Innovation Grant to record sounds at Walden Pond and build a website that maps Walden’s soundscape. She just undertook the first part of this project, visiting Walden Pond in February to record sounds like footsteps in the snow, rustling leaves in the wind, a blue jay chirping, and sirens passing by. She now spends her time editing the recordings and compiling a stop-motion animated walk around the pond in winter.
The “sonic boom” of sound studies in the humanities, particularly in literary studies, calls for a new approach to “listening” to a text, especially when the text was written prior to recorded sound. This “boom” comes at a critical moment when wild soundscapes are rapidly disappearing. Christina’s project, to create a website that captures the soundscape of Walden Pond, brings the sounds of bird songs and the passing trains to readers of Walden today. The website calls attention to the sonic richness of Thoreau’s writings and philosophy, serving as a companion to Christina’s white-paper dissertation.
Concurrently, Christina is organizing an English Student Association conference called The Vibrating World: Soundscapes and Undersongs which will be hosted at the Graduate Center on March 31st. She is currently writing and presenting work on: nonhuman music in Henry David Thoreau’s writings; Emerson and sonic vibration; and pragmatic listening in the works of Margaret Fuller. This spring she will present two papers at NeMLA on pedagogy, and present “Margaret Fuller’s Early Feminist Pragmatic Method” on a Margaret Fuller Society Panel at the American Literature Association conference in Boston, MA.
When she’s not working, Christina hikes long sections of the Appalachian Trail and finds ways to incorporate her environmentalism and long-distance hiker experience into her ecocritical pedagogy. Her favorite bird song is that of the wood thrush, something she shares with Thoreau. Listen to wood thrushes in Virginia on the Appalachian Trail singing at dawn (one of her first sound recordings):