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Lost SoundThe Forgotten Art of Radio Storytelling$
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Jeff Porter

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469627779

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469627779.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CSO for personal use (for details see www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy).date: 18 December 2018

The Screaming Woman

The Screaming Woman

5 The Screaming Woman
Lost Sound

Jeff Porter

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter explores the problem of the speaking woman. If radio was inhospitable to the female voice in nonperforming roles, that bias was not confined to network policy. A similar kind of vocal erasure found its way into radio’s story lines and was, in fact, thematized in fantasies of entrapment and suffocation throughout 1940s radio. CBS’s long-running radio-noir anthology, Suspense, specialized in desperate and hysterical female subjects whose traumatized voices echoed the profound discursive impotency of women enforced by the networks. The dilemma of the screaming woman, hauntingly vocalized by Agnes Moorehead in Lucille Fletcher’s Sorry, Wrong Number—the single most popular episode of Suspense—reproduces the predicament of the female voice in radio. The female voice was radio’s outsider—its pariah—no less alien than Mercury Theatre’s Martians. The screaming woman took radio beyond the symbolic order of the word, disturbing the apparently natural relations between language and meaning.

Keywords:   Problem of speaking woman, Logocentric, Echo, Devocalization, Forbidden speech, The screaming point, Agnes Moorehead, Barbara Stanwyck, Sorry, Wrong Number

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