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The moaning of (un-)life: Animacy, muteness and eugenics in cinematic and televisual representation

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Abstract

This article analyses the eugenicist imperative governing speaking and non-speaking characters in western televisual representations, including films such as The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and The Shape of Water (2017), and in the trope of the zombie. Typically, sublinguistic sounds are either assigned to human characters with supposed intellectual disabilities, or to reanimated, subhuman characters such as monsters and zombies. In both cases, characters denied speech are subject to isolation, sterilization or death, thus mirroring the status of voice in western constructions of humanness as it informs eugenicist discourse on disability.
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Keywords: cinema and media studies; disability; eugenics; muteness; sentience; sublinguistic sounds; things; zombies

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2019

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  • JIVS provides a forum for scholarly and practice-based engagement with voice as a phenomenon of communication and performance, and a methodology or metaphor for analysis. This peer-reviewed journal draws on an interdisciplinary series of lenses, including cultural studies, critical theory, performance studies, inter-culturalism, linguistics, visual culture, musicology, architecture and somatics.
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