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Into the Vortex

Into the Vortex: Female Voice and Paradox in Film

Britta Sjogren
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Into the Vortex
    Book Description:

    Into the Vortex challenges and rethinks feminist film theory's brilliant but often pessimistic reflections on the workings of sound and voice in film. Including close readings of major film theorists such as Kaja Silverman and Mary Ann Doane, Britta H. Sjogren offers an alternative to image-centered scenarios that dominate feminist film theory's critique of the representation of sexual difference. _x000B_Sjogren focuses on a rash of 1940s Hollywood films in which the female voice bears a marked formal presence to demonstrate the ways that the feminine is expressed and difference is sustained. She argues that these films capitalize on particular particular psychoanalytic, narratological and discursive contradictions to bring out and express difference, rather than to contain or close it down. Exploring the vigorous dynamic engendered by contradiction and paradox, Sjogren charts a way out of the pessimistic, monolithic view of patriarchy and cinema's representation of women's voices.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09241-1
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. prologue: voices, vortexes, and dialectics
    (pp. 1-20)

    The propositions offered in this book arise from my love of classical cinema—in particular my fascination with those films that bear a female voice-off. Beyond these affinities, it has been my aim to question, refute, and rebut some strongly entrenched theoretical assumptions that have led many feminist (and other) critics to dismiss Hollywood films as invariably and monolithically “male-centered,” as catering to a phallocentric gaze alone, as occluding the feminine, and as containing the woman, and her desire, within not only images that objectify her, but inside narrative structures that constrict and oppress her subjectivity and point of view....

  5. 1 a metapsychology of the voice-off
    (pp. 21-77)

    Sound, and particularly female voice-off, renders acute a cinematic phenomenon of “blind images”—moments in which we are asked to lay down the gaze, to “see” through our hearing, moments that are often identified with a feminine subjectivity. Too strict a correlation has been placed, in fact, within scenarios exploring the riddle of cinematic identification, between “sight” and “the gaze.” Jacques Lacan repeatedly distinguishes between these two terms: he stresses that there is, rather, “a dialectic” of the eye and the gaze.¹ In another fascinating description, he implies that the gaze is like an acoustic perception. Citing Jean-Paul Sartre’s discussion...

  6. 2 point of view and paradox
    (pp. 78-127)

    In the cinema, the woman screams. This moment, full of terror, unseeing and unseen horrors, is reserved for a female voice, a voice that seems to have reached some sort of apogee. The scream reaches us, usually, from offscreen space, as a manifestation of female voice-off. It is difficult, in fact, to remember any film in which a man screams. A certain form of crisis indeed seems “best” expressed or represented by the female voice raised in an inarticulate cry, a sound that Kaja Silverman claims the Hollywood film is “at the greatest pains to extract.”¹ The female cry/scream represents,...

  7. 3 discourse, enunciation, and contradiction
    (pp. 128-188)

    At the conclusion ofHumoresque(1946), a melancholy John Garfield (Paul Boray), in shock at his fiancée’s sudden and tragic suicide, looks down at the city from his penthouse and reminisces to a friend how she “once asked [him] what it was like to live up here—the Boray point-of-view.” He continues, “It’s lonely. . . . It all seemed so simple once . . . you find out it’s not that easy. Nothing comes free. One way or another, you pay for what you are.” His statement is ambiguous, referring, perhaps to his “paying” for his involvement with a...

  8. epilogue: passionate blindness
    (pp. 189-198)

    Björk’s Selma, in Lars von Trier’sDancer in the Dark(2000), is a contemporary melodramatic heroine—a woman who cannot see, but whose voice carries her to an ecstatic inner realm. In the film, Selma is trapped within a patriarchal system that exploits her as a laborer and misjudges her as a criminal (as it has no access to the logic that drives her actions). Taking cues from the musical genre,Dancercarves out a metaphysical zone of communication with the viewer through the heightened subjectivity Selma expresses in her passionate singing. It is interesting that these vocal eruptions of...

  9. notes
    (pp. 199-230)
  10. bibliography
    (pp. 231-240)
  11. Index
    (pp. 241-248)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 249-250)