Call the celebrity: Voicing the experience of women and ageing through the distinctive vocal presence of Vanessa Redgrave

Jennings, Ros ORCID: 0000-0002-5852-9420 and Krainitzki, Eva L ORCID: 0000-0003-1178-718X (2015) Call the celebrity: Voicing the experience of women and ageing through the distinctive vocal presence of Vanessa Redgrave. In: Women, Celebrity and Cultures of Ageing: Freeze Frame. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 178-196. ISBN 9781137495112

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Within the field of ageing studies, ageism is being challenged by querying the ‘progress-versus-decline’ binary (Gullette, 2004) so common in film and television texts and by interrogating the predominant discourse of age, which ‘pivots on the blunt binary of young and old, as if there were only two states of age’ (Woodward, 1999, p. xvii). One of the more productive perspectives suggests that we are young and old or old and young at the same time (Moglen, 2008; Segal, 2013). Whilst contemporary screen media now presents images of ageing which are more diverse and complex than earlier stereotypes and images, the oppositional binary between old and young still remains the most prevalent mode of representing generations. In this article, we focus on the contribution of Vanessa Redgrave’s distinctive vocal presence in relation to the narration of age. As the ‘grande dame who won't conform’, the distinctiveness of Redgrave’s voice incorporates elements of her controversial celebrity persona such as her profound belief in social justice and her personal experience of loss and mourning. Her own physiological ageing is also manifest in the sonic cadences of her post-menopausal voice but her status as one of Britain’s greatest and most enduring actresses works against typical notions of the disempowered older voice to command attention through her skilled delivery of vocal frequency, intensity range and quality (Prakup, 2012). As the voice-over narrator in Call the Midwife (BBC, 2012 – ) Redgrave’s voice facilitates a rare example of female subjectivity emerging as young and old at the same time. Redgrave’s serene, measured voice suggests both a process of reliable narration and also identity integration along the life course. Her voice-over serves to link the past and present of one of the central characters (Jenny Lee). The younger Jenny is thus mediated by an older woman’s experiences and, at the same time, the late life narrative of the older Jenny is re-energized.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: REF2021
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Research Priority Areas: Culture, Continuity, and Transformation
Creative Practice and Theory
Depositing User: Anne Pengelly
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2015 13:25
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2022 08:03

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