Hearing Loss: Theoretical Absence and Visual Bullying
The origins of Anglophone cultural theory in the mid-twentieth century were predominantly scopocentric, partly because of its epistemological history, and for the cognate reason that visual tropes are so deeply embedded in the English language. As this scopocentricity comprehensively colonised cultural research, studies of nonvisual practices and texts were both marginalised and deformed. The discipline of film studies was dominated by attention to visual theoretical models, centred for example on “the gaze”. Studies of film sound have burgeoned in recent times, but often have been hobbled by inappropriately scopic theoretical models, or they have eschewed these models by withdrawing into more purely empirical approaches, such as genre studies or atomised “case studies”. While disclosing what E.P. Thompson called “the poverty of theory”, such studies have often found themselves in a conceptual no-man’s land. Without proposing a return to theoretical “master narratives” which compromise the integrity of the text, we argue that studies of film sound should build on the work of scholars like Philip Tagg to develop further theoretical modelling based on the specificity of sound and its deployment in film.
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