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A voice of her own? Feminine voice effects in George Du Maurier, George Bernard Shaw and Isak Dinesen


Straumann, Barbara (2011). A voice of her own? Feminine voice effects in George Du Maurier, George Bernard Shaw and Isak Dinesen. Slovo a smysl / Word and Sense: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Theory and Criticism in Czeck Studies, 15:21-39.

Abstract

What does it mean to have voice of one’s own? And how does narrative fiction, as a medium that works without any concrete sound, evoke “voice” as an aesthetic special effect? Taking my cue from George Bernard Shaw and his play Pygmalion (1913), which refers us to the notion that in a gender context, having a voice is not coterminous with having a voice of one’s own, I compare and juxtapose the two female singer figures in George Du Maurier’s novel Trilby (1894) and Isak Dinesen’s story “The Dreamers” (1934). With her radical departure from Du Maurier’s construction of Trilby’s voice, which is ventriloquized by Svengali, a male artist who sings through her, Dinesen foregrounds the subjectivity of the modern woman artist. In a tragic accident, Pellegrina Leoni loses her voice as a professional singer but instead gains a “voice” of her own as she recreates herself, both as an artist and as her own work of art. By picking up on Mikhail Bakhtin, Shoshana Felman and others, I show in my reading of these two texts about singers how the “voice effect” of narrative fiction invites us as readers and critics to become aware of the tone or “voice” of a text as we trace the dialogue and/or the dissonance between various textual voices.

What does it mean to have voice of one’s own? And how does narrative fiction, as a medium that works without any concrete sound, evoke “voice” as an aesthetic special effect? Taking my cue from George Bernard Shaw and his play Pygmalion (1913), which refers us to the notion that in a gender context, having a voice is not coterminous with having a voice of one’s own, I compare and juxtapose the two female singer figures in George Du Maurier’s novel Trilby (1894) and Isak Dinesen’s story “The Dreamers” (1934). With her radical departure from Du Maurier’s construction of Trilby’s voice, which is ventriloquized by Svengali, a male artist who sings through her, Dinesen foregrounds the subjectivity of the modern woman artist. In a tragic accident, Pellegrina Leoni loses her voice as a professional singer but instead gains a “voice” of her own as she recreates herself, both as an artist and as her own work of art. By picking up on Mikhail Bakhtin, Shoshana Felman and others, I show in my reading of these two texts about singers how the “voice effect” of narrative fiction invites us as readers and critics to become aware of the tone or “voice” of a text as we trace the dialogue and/or the dissonance between various textual voices.

Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Language:English
Date:2011
Deposited On:23 Sep 2011 12:49
Last Modified:11 May 2016 09:47
Publisher:Filozofická fakulta Univerzity Karlovy v Praze
ISSN:1214-7915
Related URLs:http://www.ff.cuni.cz/FF-520.html

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