Transcript – Instructor Reflection for Attuning to Phonophobia (11.1)

By Ben Harley, Northern State University

Caitline initially created “Attunding to Phonophobia” for a sonic rhetorics course I taught at Northern State University in the spring of 2020. The course was called “Sounding, Listening, Remixing Rhetoric,” and it asked students to engage in a fairly wide variety of activities involving sound. Not only did we read scholarship by folx like Adam Banks, Steph Ceraso, Byron Hawk, and Krista Ratcliffe, but also students created their own field recordings, sonic reflections, and researched audio essays. What they created was more inventive and original than I could have anticipated, and despite the pandemic, the course was a joy to teach. If you are interested in seeing the course materials, you can actually check out the article I wrote for it in Text Shop Experiments, and if you are interested in hearing more student work from the course, you can check out a collage of student assignments I published—with permission of course—on the podcast Rhetoricity. I’ll put links in the bottom of the transcript. 

The essay that Caitline presents here started as a short end-of-unit audio essay. The class had just finished reading Steph Ceraso’s Sounding Composition, and students were tasked with creating an argumentative audio essay building on Ceraso’s insights. Caitline’s piece stuck out initially because of her delivery: her voice was so quiet that I had to lean in to hear it, creating a sense of connection and intimacy. The narrative was personal and compelling, the sound effects helped to put the audience in the setting and feel with Caitline, and her research on attunement helped me to make sense of her story while her story simultaneously helped me to make sense of the scholarship on sonic attunement. It was exemplary work. 

At the end of the semester, Caitline revised her initial audio essay for her final project. She brought in more sound scholars, started thinking in terms of neurodiversity, and really considered questions of agency and accommodation. It was a great essay, but she wanted to push it further. So, we met a few times over the summer, and she continued to revise. In the process she brought in more work from medical researchers, reorganized some ideas, and enriched the soundscape of the essay. The result is one of my favorite sonic essays. I hope that you all enjoy it and find it as insightful as I do.


Harley, Ben. “Sounding, Listening, Remixing Pedagogy.” Pedagogy Pop Up, special issue of Textshop Experiments, vol. 7, no. 2, 2020,

Detweiler, Eric, et al. “Rhetorical Juxtapositions.” Rhetoricity, 14 Jul. 2020.