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This essay is an original contribution to the ethnomusicology of literature in Greece. Concepts and perspectives from the anthropology of music, soundscape studies, and the ethnography of sound and the senses are used to approach and analyze the sound world of Christos Christovasilis’s literary work. Christovasilis (1860-1937) is an important figure in the so-called “ethographic” literary movement in Greece of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; his work is of exceptional interest concerning the presentation of sound and hearing in Greek mountain communities. Panayotis Panopoulos’s sharp ear identifies the strong presence of sound in the short stories of Christovasilis, which he interprets in terms of the ethnography of the senses and the role of sound and hearing in the cultural construction of community and personhood among Greek pastoralists. In this text Panopoulos places special emphasis on the sound of animal bells in everyday and ritual contexts, developing further his earlier ethnographic work on animal bells (see “Animal Bells as Symbols: Sound and Hearing in a Greek Island Village,”Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 9 (2003): 639-56; and Skyros Carnival, photographs by Dick Blau, essay by Agapi Amanatidis and Panayotis Panopoulos, CD + DVD by Steven Feld, Santa Fe, NM: VOXLOX, 2011). More importantly, Panopoulos challenges received ideas in which text is understood as a predominantly visual, linguistic construct and he eloquently depicts how experiences of sonic imagination are culturally reproduced in text. In this way, he makes an important contribution to the ethnomusicological reading of literary text by showing how text is mediated through acoustic environment and how sound produces, surrounds, and immerses itself in text.
Originally published in Greek in Dokimes: Journal of Social Studies 13-14 (2005): 277-307.