It is commonly acknowledged that literature is a signifying system that creates a greater density in meaning than does everyday language. This additional meaning is achieved by devices such as metaphor, imagery, rhetoric or semantic recurrences. While these devices doubtlessly contribute greatly to the overall meaning of a text, they are all focussed on textual phenomena which are present on the page. This focus on visible devices, however, results in the neglect of signifying absences which can and do greatly contribute to the overall effect of a text.It is these signifying, ?speaking? absences which are explored in this paper. In order to investigate signifying absences in literature, a systematic approach is taken. In a first step, the main forms of signifying blanks are outlined and summarised into three main groups: visual, semantic and aural blanks. Each of these main groups is then supported and illustrated by examples taken from prose, drama, and poetry of various cultural-historical epochs. The analyses of actual literary texts clearly show that signifying absences are not an isolated phenomenon, but also allow for an investigation of the possible functions of literary blanks.The paper thus highlights the presence of ?speaking silences? in texts of various genres and from various historical epochs. Whereas no particular attention is paid to the creation of a conclusive historical overview with regard to literary absences, the paper nonetheless emphasises the presence of ?speaking silences? as meaningful participants of the text. At the same time possible functions of absences are highlighted. The paper thus shows that literary absences are abundant and meaningful and can, just like literary ?presences?, be analysed accordingly. The paper furthermore aims to provide a first systematic overview over literary absences and hopes to open the field for further research into ?speaking silences? which have been neglected so far in literary studies.