The Appeal to be Heard and the Trope of Listening in Classic Film and African American Literature
Keywordsconstructions of subjectivity
narrative use of sound
race and gender relations
the rhetoric of abolitionists and Civil Rights activists
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation analyzes the narrative use of sound, the rhetorical appeal to be heard and the trope of listening in African American literature as well as Hollywood and international cinema. Contributing to the burgeoning fields of film sound and listening studies, Chapter One explores the relationship between the first experiments with synchronous sound recording technology and the construction of subjectivity along the lines of ethnicity, religion and gender in early talkies such as Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer and Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail. Chapter Two surveys a range of abolitionist texts and select essays from the Civil Rights movement--particularly David Walker's Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World, Frederick Douglass's first autobiography Narrative of the Life and his novella "The Heroic Slave," W. E. B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk and Richard Wright's White Man, Listen!--in order to review the role of listening across racial divides in the United States. Chapter Three analyzes the multiple ways in which listening functions for narrative purposes in Wright's best-selling novel, Native Son; and Chapter Four addresses the trouble with listening in Wright's posthumous novel A Father's Law and Hitchcock's first color film, Rope.Contributing to film studies, gender studies, and critical race theory, this thesis argues that the act of listening comes to function figuratively as a trope, signifying not only a means of recognition, interpellation and subjugation of an Other but also an instrument of justice; a matter of politics; a means of education; a potential remedy for alienation, while at the same time working as a tool of oppression; a formative act in familial and other social relations; a governing form of surveillance; an audial gaze, so to speak; a way to frighten, or more generally, evoke emotion; a part of the therapeutic process; an indication of trust or confidence; a manifestation of (sexual) desire; and, last but certainly not least, an age old form of entertainment forever transformed by sound technology of the industrial age.
Degree ProgramGraduate College