Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2019

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

East Asian Languages and Culture: Chinese

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



In the history of modern Chinese enlightenment and revolution, the very act of speaking out, of having a voice, has acquired a central significance in the imagination and construction of individual and collective subjecthood. Rather than understanding the notion of voice as an organic, transparent, and immediate vehicle of the identity and agency of individual and collective self, this study foregrounds the significance and complexity of the technological dimension of speaking by examining four specific cases: the vocal techniques of public speaking, the vocal rhythm of the leftist poetry recitation, the sonic images of the masses in socialist film, and the acoustic architecture of the CinemaScope theater in socialist China.Situating these cases in the interrelation of three major historical and theoretical issues—the transnational and translational traffics of the new knowledges on body, emotion, sound, space, etc., the evolving media technology of mass mechanical reproduction, and the forms and conditions of mass politics and mass mobilization—I reveal how the pitch, volume, rhythm, reverberation of the sound of voice, the physical space in which speaking and listening happen, the devices and equipment people use to produce and record voice … have been informed or determined by deliberate political, ideological, and technological consideration and calculation. Voice has its own history, a history in which its materiality has been constructed and contested by different forces and in different circumstances.In so doing, this study aims to reconsider the role of human sensorium and perception in the practices of subject formation, national awakening, mass mobilization, collective organization, etc. It argues that the political-ideological revolution in modern China parallels the media-perceptual revolution. The former is made possible and operational through its embedment in the latter. The popularization of these technologies offers new ways of perception in which different cultural-political forces and agents have been able to redefine their sensory relationship with the masses and to transform them according to various agendas. Sound and voice could at times awake and hypnotize, empower and silence, unify and individualize. It is precisely this dialectic nature that draws people into it over and over again at different historical junctures and with different hopes and anxieties.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Lingchei Letty Chen

Committee Members

Zhao Ma, David Der-wei Wang, Robert E. Hegel, Marvin Marcus,


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/yzvb-jz97

Available for download on Monday, December 18, 2034