2018 February: Subversive Submission

Woman Reads Important Books by Men

This is an idea I had, perhaps for a YouTube Channel or SoundCloud podcast. It’s a bit of an investment, but would combine two things I enjoy: voice work and reading interesting texts.

To limit the investment, maybe I could try reading aloud 3 works by famous men.

The idea came to me as I started reading Darwin’s Origin of Species. I haven’t gotten far into it, but it occurred to me that if I searched for an audiobook of Origin, I would only find male readers. Particularly because it is a work written in the voice of Darwin.*

*I’ve now researched this a little. This is true as far as I can see except on Librivox. Here some female voices appear as the narrator of some chapters. Librivox is interesting because all its tracks are entirely read by volunteers who pitch in to read as much or as little as they want of different audiobook projects (all books in the public domain), and do not need to audition. It is easier to imagine a woman reading the Origin of Species through volunteering than casting.

Of course, the history of female absence the arts and sciences is long and nowadays well-acknowledged. There are efforts to unearth female artists and thinkers throughout the ages, in all sorts of spheres: exhibitions honouring anonymous female painters and illustrated children’s books celebrating female scientists.

As mentioned, I didn’t get too far into Darwin’s book, but I have a feeling it is a nice read… not only paradigm-shifting ideas but written in an engaging way: a work to be celebrated.

The project I am envisioning is to celebrate these old-white-male works (the good ones of course!) with a female voice, reading the ideas as if they were my ideas, as if I came up with them.

I wonder what that simple gesture might do. The aim would be to read beautifully, to produce a quality audiobook series of readings of works in the public domain. To reproduce or read a man’s work in this manner may seem traditionally feminine, secretarial, administrative and servicing.

But I think these can be read with a subtle performative spin, a certain challenge in the voice, acting out and not only reading the text, as if to act the role of the author, now reversely gendered.

It would simply be a series of readings, with no explanation other than the title of the podcast/channel, which would be something blunt like “Woman Reads Important Books By Men”. Of course, there are many works of literature by men which are not uncommon to be voiced by female audiobook readers – some men have written novels from the perspective of women and therefore a female voice is only natural. My selection of books need to have 1) well-known authors 2) a world changing reputation 3) a marked male voice to the text, which can then be counteracted by my reading. Here are some books I might try:

  1. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
  2. The Meaning of Relativity by Albert Einstein
  3. Freud?
  4. Ion by Plato
  5. Poetics by Aristotle

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