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University of Oregon

Swig Prize Awarded for Winter 2013

English Major, Martin Larson-Xu, was awarded the Swig Essay Prize for the best undergraduate essay submitted to an English class during the winter term. Martin’s winning essay, “Means Something, Language of Flow: Music, Noise, and Conceptual Art in the ‘Sirens’ Episode of Ulysses,”was written for Peul Peppis’s ENG 479: James Joyce course. In 2007, Mary and Steven Swig (BA, 1963) of San Francisco created an endowment to fund the annual prize. The award carries a cash prize of $500.

Congratulations to Martin and the other nominees: Kerani Arpaia, Joseph Bitney, Chad Crabtree, Sarah Murphy, Andrew Naugle, Colleen Nguyen, Dylan Thompson, Robyn Vance, and Joshua Zirl.

Martin’s essay explores the musical manipulation of literary form int he ‘Sirens’ episode of James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses. Martin argues that, in ‘Sirens’, Joyce aspires to transcend the linear temporality of literary form by assuming the narratorial guise of pure form, or pure rhetorical style. To achieve this, his narrator explores words and sounds at the root level, manipulating these roots through rhetorical device with the goal of delivering a perception of sound in literature that escapes temporality. This foregrounding of rhetorical device also attempts to overcome the conceptual barriers between music and noise by breaking down the step by step mental process of reconceptualizing noise as music. Lastly, the episode’s engagement with the conceptual barriers between music and literature, noise and music, reflects a broader crisis of aesthetic value that occurred as popular commodity culture infiltrated the previously exclusive domain of “high” culture.