Acoustic Spectatorship: The 1980s Film and Video Work of Jean-Luc Godard

Albertine Fox

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis focuses on some of Godard’s most complex, innovative and daring experiments in sound design in a selection of key films and videos made predominantly during the 1980s. It charts Godard’s evolving experiments with live, electronic and pre-existing music, as well as his manipulation of voice, texture, spatiality and speed alteration. It aims to advance a theory of ‘acoustic spectatorship’, a term I have coined to establish and convey the depth and significance of the spectator’s experience of film through sound and the sense of hearing.

The thesis develops an approach to Godard’s films from the perspective of sonic art, arguing that an emphasis on the active process of listening enables the spectator to perceive more fully the multileveled and multifaceted experiences that the chosen films and videos provide. It foregrounds Godard’s extraordinary sensibility to sound and his persistent efforts, which often go unheeded, to challenge the ingrained assumption that film is primarily a visual medium. The thesis will explore the expressivity of acoustic phenomena in a range of commercial feature films, video scenarios, short films and videos, along with a CD soundtrack release, engaging with Godard’s approach to film history, his conception of projection and his theory of montage.

The close analysis performed in each chapter will be supported by a plural and interdisciplinary methodology. It draws on different intellectual and artistic disciplines, including musicology, sound theory, film theory, as well as writings by composers, writers, philosophers and poets, underpinned by the crucial discoveries of sound engineer Pierre Schaeffer, especially his fundamental concept of the acousmatic condition. By prioritizing the acoustic experience of the film spectator, this thesis constructs a new means of perceiving Godard’s 1980s film work, which, in turn, calls for a reassessment and redefinition of the very notion of spectatorship itself.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Williams, James, Supervisor
  • Robertson, Eric, Advisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Feb 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • Jean-Luc Godard
  • sound
  • music
  • voice
  • space
  • spectatorship
  • projection
  • listener
  • Anne-Marie Mieville
  • video
  • cinema

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