"'A Different Communcation:” Dorothy Brett and her Ear Machines," Jaipreet Virdi

February 6, 2020
Monday, February 17, 2020 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Dulles Hall, Room 168
Jaipreet Virdi
Jaipreet Virdi is an historian of medicine, technology, and disability at the University of Delaware. Her first book, Hearing Happiness: Fakes, Frauds, and Fads in Deafness Cures, is coming out soon from the University of Chicago Press. This book rethinks how therapeutic negotiation and the influence of pseudomedicine shaped what it meant to be a “normal” deaf citizen in American history. Examining how deaf/deafened individuals attempted to amplify their hearing through various types of surgical, proprietary, and/or technological “deafness cures,” the book charts the dissemination of ideas about hearing loss from beyond medical elites to popular culture and the popular imagination.
 
For nearly sixty years, painter Dorothy Eugiené Brett (1883-1977) made use of multiple hearing prostheses she collectively referred to as her “ear machines:” ear trumpets, auricles, carbon acoustic devices, and vacuum tube hearing aids. She relied on these machines as both technologies of assimilation into the hearing world and as objects of power to negotiate the often-contested boundaries between hearing and deafness. As deafness shaped Brett’s physical and social environments, it also influenced her artistic style: many of her paintings embody her acoustemology, shaped by what she describes as a “different communication,” containing elements of movement and rhythm aided by Brett’s ear machines and her interpretations of sounds around her. This paper positions the ear machines alongside Brett’s artistic representations of sound to examine how her performative enactments of deafness enabled her to affirm her identity as a deaf woman.
 
This talk is free and open to the public.
 
This is a History of the Mind Seminar.
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