Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This dissertation addresses the problem of the denigration of the voice in poststructural theory and contemporary performance criticism. The problem has antecedents in twentieth-century language philosophy. Saussure defines language as a compendium of arbitrary words recognized according to the degrees of phonetic difference between them. Since for Saussure the arbitrary words of language also designate arbitrary concepts, he concludes that the sounds of words cannot be thought constituent of their sense. After Saussure, structuralism dislodges the voice from its privileged position in the phonologic discourses of Western thought. Poststructuralism views meaning as a product of socially constructed language systems, and it argues that neither the voice nor the speaking subject can be afforded linguistic agency. A strain of contemporary theatre criticism, premised upon poststructuralism, interprets the postmodern stage as a site in which the voice, language, and the speaking subject come under critique and suspicion, stripped of agency and communicative efficacy. This dissertation investigates twentieth-century theories of voice, language, and speech in order to define the status of the voice in various disciplines ranging from paleoanthropology, phenomenology, structuralism, speech act theory, theatre semiotics, the philosophies of technology, and media studies. By comparing the status of the voice in other disciplines, this dissertation argues for a recuperation of the voice against the denigration evident in poststructural theory and performance criticism. Relying on Heidegger's phenomenal view of language, the autonomy of the voice in speech act theory and theatre semiotics, the centrality of vocalized language in human evolution, and the resurgence of orality in electronic media, this dissertation argues that the voice continues to act as an important and primary signifying agent on the postmodern stage, regardless of poststructural arguments to the contrary.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Leslie Wade