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Title: Phonographic Imaginaries: The Birth of Sound Recording in France and the French Colonial Empire
Authors: Altergott, Renée
Advisors: Nesbitt, Nick
Contributors: French and Italian Department
Keywords: Empire
Sound Studies
Subjects: French literature
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: “Phonographic Imaginaries: The Birth of Sound Recording in France and the French Colonial Empire” constructs a new media history of the phonograph. During the first three decades of the recording era, roughly 1877-1910, the phonograph had not yet been defined as a machine for musical entertainment, and thus still had seemingly infinite potential. My chapters examine the myths and collective “phonographic imaginaries” of the recorded voice that developed across the disciplines of science, literature, politics, and music during this time period. Chapter 1 reconstructs the history of the invention of sound recording in France and the U.S., shedding light on those whose voices and contributions to sound recording have been forgotten or silenced, and showing how the French claim a literary origin for the phonograph. Chapter 2 draws on Michel Chion’s theorization of the “acousmatic,” or sound whose source has been obscured, to analyze the earliest French narrative uses of phonographic voice in Auguste de Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s L’Ève future (1886) and Jules Verne’s Le Château des Carpathes (1892). Chapter 3 considers the urgent political context of the burgeoning recording era in France, namely the renewed colonial ambitions of the Scramble for Africa (1881-1914). Through artifacts related to the famed sub-Saharan figure of resistance, Samori Touré, I reveal the neglected French contributions to a collective political imaginary, what I term “phonographic imperialism,” according to which the phonograph could be used to manipulate indigenous leaders into submission. Chapter 4 investigates the postcolonial afterlives of the first field recordings made in French Algeria in 1913 by Béla Bartók. I develop an original theoretical lens through which to examine the recycling of Bartók’s recordings in the works of Francophone Algerian writer and film director Assia Djebar (1936-2015), for whom hospitality, listening, and the siren song were crucial themes. By bringing diverse perspectives to bear on the relationship between sound, technology, and listening during the French Colonial recording era, I demonstrate that sound studies is a productive lens for advancing French and Francophone literary and cultural thought.
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Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:French and Italian

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