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This essay addresses the ideological work of aurality in two now-classic novels that chronicle the last days of the British Empire and the emergence of Indian nationalism: E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India (1924) and Rabindranath Tagore’s The Home and the World (1919). Both novels make striking and consistent use of aural imagery, evoking a soundscape through references to noise, music, communication and sound reproduction technologies, and spoken language. Music and sound serve as more than atmospheric detail in these novels; they propel the stories and serve as the ground on which racial, cultural, and national differences are established. Investing the aural with the power to produce competing affects and allegiances, these novels articulate it as a primary site of struggle within a late colonial context influenced by nineteenth-century discourses about sound and noise, the technological modernity of the early twentieth century, and the emergence of Indian nationalism.

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