All EarsThe Aesthetics of Espionage

All EarsThe Aesthetics of Espionage

Peter Szendy

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780823273959

Publisher: Fordham University Press


The world of international politics has been recently rocked by a seemingly endless series of scandals that are all tied to various practices of auditory surveillance: the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping, Edward Snowden’s revelations, and the “News of the World” scandal are just the most sensational examples of what appears to be a universal practice today. What is the source of this unceasing battle of different forms of listening? Whence this generalized principle of eavesdropping? Peter Szendy’s All Ears: The Aesthetics of Espionage answers these questions by tracing the long history of moles from the Bible, through Jeremy Bentham’s “panacoustic” project, all the way to the intelligence gathering network called “Echelon.” This archeology of auditory surveillance runs parallel with the analysis of its representations in literature (Sophocles, Shakespeare, Joyce, Kafka, Borges), opera (Monteverdi, Mozart, Berg), and film (Lang, Hitchcock, Coppola, De Palma). Following in the footsteps of Orpheus, the book proposes a new concept of “overhearing” that connects the act of spying to an excessive intensification of listening. Relying on the works of Freud, Deleuze, Foucault, Adorno, and Derrida, Szendy’s work attempts to locate at the heart of listening the ear of the Other that manifests itself as the originary division of a “split-hearing” that turns the drive for mastery and surveillance into the death drive.