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Figures of silent speech: Silent film dialogue and the American vernacular, 1909--1916

Author: Torey Liepa; Zhen Zhang; William Simon; Dana B Polan; Steven Higgins
Publisher: 2008.
Dissertation: Thesis (Ph. D.)--New York University, 2008.
Edition/Format:   Thesis/dissertation : Document : Thesis/dissertation : Manuscript   Computer File   Archival Material : English
Publication:Dissertation Abstracts International, 69-08A.
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
Figures of Silent Speech: Silent Film Dialogue and the American Vernacular, 1909-1916 examines the emergence of intertitled dialogue in American silent cinema, as a vernacular interpolation into a changing representational form. Rather than survey intertitle history or visual appearance, this dissertation focuses on a formative moment in the stylistic history of the cinema--when intertitle language shifted from
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Details

Genre/Form: Dissertations, Academic
Material Type: Document, Thesis/dissertation, Manuscript, Internet resource
Document Type: Book, Computer File, Archival Material, Internet Resource
All Authors / Contributors: Torey Liepa; Zhen Zhang; William Simon; Dana B Polan; Steven Higgins
ISBN: 9780549745556 0549745556
OCLC Number: 670306971
Notes: Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 69-08, Section: A, page: 2914.
Adviser: Robert Sklar.
Description: 561 p. digital.

Abstract:

Figures of Silent Speech: Silent Film Dialogue and the American Vernacular, 1909-1916 examines the emergence of intertitled dialogue in American silent cinema, as a vernacular interpolation into a changing representational form. Rather than survey intertitle history or visual appearance, this dissertation focuses on a formative moment in the stylistic history of the cinema--when intertitle language shifted from omniscient exposition to character dialogue. This dissertation is specifically concerned with the way silent film dialogue 'spoke to' its diverse audiences, presenting language in everyday, at times generic, forms, borrowing elements of the American vernacular found in rival forms, including literature, stage performance and music. While intertitles were certainly novel representational devices for their divergent appearance, this dissertation focuses on the written content of dialogue intertitles, examining its commercial appeal and connections to American vernacular culture.

The study begins by describing the tension within which film dialogue emerged, between the institutionalizing and rationalizing film industry and the audiences that made the cinema a popular entertainment. Dialogue was shaped, on one hand, by the standardization of scriptwriting in the film industry, and on the other hand by a popular scriptwriting movement and mobilization of popular forms of speech. The project continues by analyzing the significant effects of global film circulation on intertitle development. As non-'universal' forms, intertitles did not travel well, but rather required translation. Finally, this dissertation analyzes the divergent intertitling styles in the works of D.W. Griffith and Thomas Ince, examining the effects of two influential types of film production on intertitle development.

The primary aim of this dissertation is to redraw the cultural map of the emergence of speech in the American cinema, tracing its origins in the silent era. The redrawn map is multi-dimensional, characterized by competing representational forms and the languages of a culture in transition. This dissertation demonstrates that silent cinema was never a purely pictorial medium, and that intertitles played a much larger role than they have been credited with in previous scholarship, contributing to an understanding of the silent cinema as a fundamentally hybrid discursive representation, governed by the dialectic of its multiple historical forms.

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