Conference Report — Deaf Cinema

Closed Captioning, Audio Description, and the Reinvention of Silent Film

The one-day symposium included three presentations and a roundtable involving the speakers, UF faculty and graduate students in Film studies. It was organized by Dr. Richard Burt, English Deprtment of English, and Dr. Sylvie Blum-Reid, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. It took place on 17 September 2017.

Closed Captioning, Audio Description and the Reinvention of Silent Film brought together three prominent French film theorists and musicologists who discussed their scholarship on the latest development in the field of cinema. Closed Captioning (CC) and audio description (AD), a process of adding text on television or video and film screen, are becoming more and more a part of everyday life for everyone. The symposium engaged with different programs, departments and scholars at the University of Florida and our partner institutions in France. It involved students and faculty from the Department of English and the Film and Media Studies program, with the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures (Dror Abend-David) and the translation program. This area spans from what Michel Chion has called “Deaf Cinema” or Silent Cinema to the present “Dolby Stereo era.” The topic of the conference opened up and generated multiple questions and debates regarding cinema, texting, sound, silence, noise, foreign languages, listening and our roles as active spectators. It constituted a platform for further collaboration and discussion with the partner institutions and other film historians in the United States who have worked on sound, music and subtitling in cinema.

Conference Speakers

Michel Chion teaches at several institutions in France and currently holds the post of Associate Professor at the University of Paris III: Sorbonne Nouvelle. Chion is a composer of musique concrète, a filmmaker, an associate professor at the Université de Paris, and a prolific writer on film, sound, and music. His books include The Voice in Cinema, edited and translated by Claudia Gorbman, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999); Film, A Sound Art and Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen. Film: A Sound Art. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011); Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994; Sound: An Acoulogical Treatise (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016); and Words on Screen, edited and translated by Claudia Gorbman, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017). Chion gave a talk on Skype.

Jean-François Cornu is a professional translator specializing in subtitling and the translation from English into French of books on cinema and art. A former Senior Lecturer at the University of Rennes-2, France, he is now an independent film researcher. In 2014, he published the monograph Le doublage et le sous-titrage: histoire et esthétique [Dubbing and Subtitling: History and Aesthetics] (Presses universitaires de Rennes). He is a co-editor of the e-journal L’Écran traduit. For more information on Dr. Cornu, please see this filmed interview in the Journal of Specialised Translation and this review in “Le Spectaculaire”, 2014.

Peter Szendy is Professor of Philosophy at the Université de Paris-Ouest-Nanterre-La Défense. Szendy is also a musicologist. His many books include Listen: a history of our ears, with a foreword by Jean-Luc Nancy, (Fordham University Press, 2008); Philosophy in the Jukebox, (Fordham University Press, 2011); and Phantom Limbs: On Musical Bodies (Fordham University Press, 2015).