The soundscape of Man in the Holocene: an exercise in sensitization

Dong Xia*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper discusses how the natural soundscape of Max Frisch’s novella Man in the Holocene (1979) affords a contemplation on the inadequacy of human epistemology against the immense temporality of the geological deep time. The sound of rain, wind, and thunderclaps in Frisch’s narrative evokes a vaster temporal scale and constantly challenges its protagonist Herr Geiser’s faith in science and objective knowledge. Following Émilie Hache and Bruno Latour’s advocacy of “resensitization,” and Derek Woods’s call for attention to scale variance and boundaries of our scalar epistemic framework, this article argues that the interrelation of sound, weather and our senses in Man in the Holocene sheds light on the limits of an anthropocentric framework of understanding, the discontinuities between different scales, and how we can reposition ourselves across and inhabit multiple epistemological scales without losing sight of their discontinuities. Weather is a profoundly intermingled sensory experience and carries temporally and geologically vast, non-human agency. By focusing on meteorological phenomena and atmospheric sound, this paper aims to contribute to the scarce literature on sound in ecocriticism and on natural soundscapes in the studies of acoustic ecology.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalPULSE: the Journal of Science and Culture
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Rain
  • Sound
  • Ecocriticism
  • Max Frisch
  • Scale


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