Mladen Dolar's "A Voice and Nothing More"

I've been thinking about Mladen Dolars book A Voice and Nothing More a lot recently, especially with regard to what can be taken from his Lacanian conclusion; that there will always be a part of voice that is an irreducible extimacy. In Many ways this felt like too convenient and easy conclusion but I cannot imagine a route past this point. The following short text is, I suppose, an effort to outline how I intend to move beyond Dolar's expert analysis by pursuing a different question entirely whilst building on his theoretical cartographies.

Steven Shaviro's Review of the book is fantastic, and touches on the specifics of the philosophical and psychoanalytical contents much more than I do here, he also manages to do so without so many occularcentric metaphors and similes...


Mladen Dolar’s enviably eloquent and beautiful account of the history of the voice (A Voice and Nothing More, 2006) did not re-define the voice. Rather he added much needed texture and hue, or rather timbre and sonority, to our perception of the history of the voice. His wonderfully accounted excursions across history, myth, literature, religion, music, psychoanalysis, philosophy and metaphysics led us to a position where we have a poly-schismatic quasi-comprehension of voice; we understand the affects of Voice, we hear these echos reverberating around our world. Yet we are left with a voice without a center, we still have a fracture that we cannot quite locate, we still have a blind spot, we have a void- a gap. Dolar’s conclusion of voice as a “zone of overlapping, the crossing, the extimate[1] between interiority and exteriority, and his concomitant socio-politcal and metaphysical tracings of this theme onto cultural history, identifying the extimatic dynamics between Zoe and Bios, Language and Corporeality, Music and Politics; has been an invaluable starting point for my project. However, the fact remains that the voice is still a penumbra betwixt the edge of the dichotomies that Dolar established in charting the history of the voice. Not dissimilar to active noise control, A Voice and Nothing More orchestrated cultural, metaphysical and political poles of noise and anti noise to such an expertly honed degree that our object was cancelled out. The voice after Dolar is not even an apparition or an echo, it is simply not there. We are left with the various poles we used to triangulate its location and confirm its presence, the harder we stare and squint at this penumbral whisper the more we behold the complexities of each side that form such an intriguing mirage. Dolar’s exercises are so complete and thorough that we are afforded a series of theoretical parallax views of this void, we understand how this void has been exploited for political purposes, how religion has grappled to deal with such an uncertainty, how forces of repression have operated around this void, and how various other corner stones of philosophical concern (such as psychological subject formation) have pivoted around it (the void, the gap). The task hand is not to continue the pursuit of voice like Perseus pursued Medusa[2], rather, the task at hand is to understand what our failed pursuits tell us about our current methods, approaches, beliefs and knowledge. Dolar attempted to shine a light on voice by outlining its relationships with such themes as Zoe and Bios, Language and Corporeality, Music and Politics, he did not find voice, but uncovered an invisible prism, the object voice, through which the energies of such themes can be dispersed and separated. We now have the opportunity to study the spectra of these themes via the object voice.


Mladen Dolar, 2006. A Voice and Nothing More (Short Circuits). Edition. The MIT Press.

[1] Dolar, 2006, pp. 81
[2] Ovid, 2009, pp. 98


  1. Great, thanks for this. You'll probably kill Vocalities this year lol.

    (I'm glad that you found the Shaviro-text too).

  2. Glad you like it! I'm fairly critical and cynical of the Dolar book now as you can see - wasn't sure if such an overt opinion was right for the Vocalities blog hence why I put this here! There is a very interesting point at the end of Shaviro's post (although not really expanded upon) about the "attribution of higher meaning, and the aesthetic promise of release" in Kant’s Third Critique.