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Silence and Voices in James’s Venice

Rosella Mamoli Zorzi


Henry James’s descriptions, rich in visual details, often seem ‘muted’ from the point of view of sound. However, one particular sound seems to interest him more and more through the years: voices. In his works on Venice, voices seem to acquire a special value against the silence of the city, i.e. the absence of mechanical noises. Voices belong to people, but also to Venetian buildings, forecasting the use of voices regularly attributed to buildings in The American Scene. In Venice, gondoliers’ voices have a special relevance: in spite of their “contempt for consonants and other disagreeables” James does not seem to condemn them, on the contrary he appreciates them. An odd position for a writer who criticized harshly the language of American women and of ethnic groups in America. The reason may be ascribed to the fact that Italian is not the beloved language of Shakespeare and of American democracy, but also to the dreamlike quality of the city, or to the writer’s seeing Venice as a woman with whom he falls in love.


Henry James; Venice; Language; Sound; Voices.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/ling-2020-001-zorz

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Linguæ & - Rivista di lingue e culture moderne
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (06/04/2012 n. 185)
Online ISSN 1724-8698 - Print ISSN 2281-8952

Dipartimento di Scienze della Comunicazione, Studi Umanistici e Internazionali: Storia, Culture, Lingue, Letterature, Arti, Media
Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo

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