Auricular erotics: sexual listening in (and to) Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theater

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Reading Jean-Luc Nancy’s Listening (2002) together with Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theater (1995), this article offers an analysis of auricular sex, a form of sex that involves the pleasure of listening and the auditory aspects of sex. Turning to the overlooked aspect of listening in the text, I argue that Sabbath’s sexual pleasures derive from the sense and sensations aroused by listening, and I subsequently formulate categories of auricular sex. Interrelated with this analysis, I argue for the text itself to be seen as a place for and of listening. Given the bodily sensations aroused by listening and the potential erotic pleasure listening can create, I further argue that reading can offer a form of auricular – and possibly sexual – excitement. The reader over-listens to the text and his/her subvocalizations intermingle with the voice of the text; the voices of text and reader merge to create a form of textual, auricular intimacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-364
JournalCritique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction
Issue number4
Early online date16 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • Listening
  • dogging
  • Jean-Luc Nancy
  • Auricular
  • Sex
  • Sabbath’s Theater


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