Colloquium | Kyle Stevens

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 - 12:00pm

Kyle Stevens

“I had no thoughts at all”: Brief Encounters with Voice-Over

Since the advent of commercial sound cinema, the technique of voice-over has arguably provided the dominant picture of the experience of consciousness in Western culture. However, neither philosophers nor film theorists have contended deeply with this technique’s conceptual scheme. In order to ward off the danger of its naturalization, I will consider the dynamic of experience and nature, reason and fact, ingrained into voice-over. More specifically, I question what is gained or lost when voice-over makes no distinction between how people sound to the world—their voice—and how they sound to themselves, which is, of course, not a sound at all but only an idea of a voice. That is, I want to think about the fact that typical voice-overs suggest that thought is subject to the same conditions of normativity and facticity and organicity that utterances are, and to wonder what sort of tribunal we are supposed to convene to ask after its realism when we cannot have certain knowledge of others’ private experiences.

Kyle Stevens is Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies and English at Colby College. His essays have appeared in Cinema Journal, Critical Quarterly, Film Criticism, World Picture, and several edited collections. His first book, Mike Nichols: Sex, Language, and the Reinvention of Psychological Realism, is available from Oxford University Press.

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