A Voice as Something More: An International Conference

Free and open to the public.

Friday, November 20 - Sunday, November 22

Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
5701 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60637

The international conference A Voice as Something More acted as a staging ground for a rethinking of voice studies in the year 2015.

This conference grew out of the Neubauer faculty research seminar “The Voice Project.”  The seminar was initiated in 2013 by an interdisciplinary group of faculty members who have trained their attention on the problem that different disciplines assemble radically different interests under the single rubric of voice, from Derridean deconstructionist philosophy to Lacanian psychoanalysis, from the techno-materialism of cinema and media studies to the physico-materialism of music studies and the cross-culturalism of anthropology and area studies.  Indeed across the humanities and social sciences, voice is understood in almost contradictory ways: as a semantic medium (e.g. word/music studies in musicology) or as a nonsignifying medium (French critical theory); as a material presence (Barthes) or a nonmaterial one (the Lacanian school); as involved in a dialectics of presence in the humanist mold (as in Walter Ong and Bakhtin) or a dialectics of absence in the poststructuralist one (Lacan and arguably Derrida).  This bewildering and often paradoxical set of approaches has demanded at the very least that we work toward developing a means of communicating across disciplines and discourses, with all the presumptions that they carry. Far from denying that voice is a carrier of diverse meanings, we aim to introduce new questions about voice that challenge metaphysical and often universalizing presumptions about it--in the case of East Asian studies and anthropology by provincializing the Euro-American discourse on the voice and in the case of Classics by tracing the linguistic and historical roots of this figurative understanding of voice.

In the balance hangs the very object of study, caught as it is between psychoanalytically oriented philosophical approaches and an assemblage of material, grounded, embodied ones that find in voice something elusive yet nevertheless more substantial. Papers will deal with recorded sound, Jamaican popular singing, ventriloquized voice, screaming, ownership and essentializing of voice, singing versus speaking, Chinese voice theory, vocal mimicry, poetic voice, opera, voice in Japanese kabuki, and cinematic voice, among other approaches.   

The keynote lecture was delivered by French film theorist and composer Michel Chion.

Slovenian philosopher Mladen Dolar acted as conference respondent.

Presented by the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, the Franke Institute for the Humanities, and the Department of Music, with additional support from the Departments of Germanic Studies, Cinema and Media Studies, Classics, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, the Japan Committee and China Committee of the Center for East Asian Studies, the Center for Theater and Performance Studies, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, and the Film Studies Center.


Conference Schedule

Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
5701 S. Woodlawn Ave.

9:15 coffee
9:30 INTRODUCTORY REMARKS, Martha Feldman and Judith Zeitlin

Staging the Voice
JAMES CHANDLER (Department of English, Department of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago), CHAIR
9:45 Sarah Hamilton Nooter (Department of Classics, University of Chicago), “The Mortal Voice on the Ancient Greek Stage”
10:30  Jonathan Zwicker (Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan), "The Actor's Absent Voice: Towards an Archaeology of Sound in Nineteenth Century Kabuki"
11:15  David Levin (Departments of Germanic Studies, Cinema and Media Studies, and Theater and Performance Studies, University of Chicago), “On Seeing (and Not Seeing) Voices Dance: Adorno, Stravinsky, and the Disposition of Melos on Stage”


Voice and Technology
(Department of Radio/Television/Film, Northwestern University), CHAIR
1:00 Andrew F. Jones (Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California, Berkeley), “The Duppy in the Machine:  Voice and Technology in Jamaican Popular Music”
1:45 Laurie Stras (Department of Music, University of Southampton), “The Artist’s Impression:  Ethel Waters as Mimic and Auteur”

2:30 coffee break

2:45 Berthold Hoeckner (Department of Music, University of Chicago), “Envoicing Judy: Vocal Imitation, Mechanical Reproducibility, and the Effects of Media Consumption in Mark Herman's Little Voice”
3:30  Tom Gunning (Departments of Cinema and Media Studies and Art History, University of Chicago), “A Voice That Is Not Mine”

5:00 Michel Chion (University of Paris III, Sorbonne-Nouvelle)
FILM STUDIES CENTER, 5811 S. Ellis Ave., Cobb  307
“Vowels/ Consonants: The Legend of a ‘Gendered’ (Sexual) Difference Told by Cinema”
Introduction by Tom Gunning


Logan Center for the Arts, room 801

9:15 coffee

Theories of the Voice
PAOLA IOVENE (Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago), CHAIR
9:30 James Q. Davies (Department of Music, University of California, Berkeley), “Is There a Body in This Voice?”
10:15 Judith Zeitlin (Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago), “Theories of the Sound-Producing Voice in Early Modern China”

11:00  coffee break

11:15  Marcelle Pierson (Department of Music, University of Chicago; University of Notre Dame), "Voice, Music, Modernism, Melancholia”
12:00 Shane Butler (Department of Classics, John Hopkins University), “Proud Music of the Storm: Ovid and Whitman on the Matter of Voice”

12:45  LUNCH

Intermedial voice
SETH  BRODSKY (Department of Music, Department of Visual Arts and Germanic Studies, University of Chicago), CHAIR
1:45  Robert Polito (MFA Writing Program, The New School ), “It's All By Someone Else”
2:30 Steven Rings (Department of Music, University of Chicago), “Speech and/in Song”

3:15 coffee

3:30 Martha Feldman (Departments of Music and Romantic Languages and Literatures, University of Chicago), “Voice Gap Crack Break”
4:15 Neil Verma (Department of Radio/Television/Film, Northwestern University), “Screamlines”


Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society

9:45 coffee

10:00-12:00 Round table discussion with opening remarks by Mladen Dolar (Philosophy, University of Ljubljana), led by Martha Feldman