Shouts & Murmurs: A Gendered Study of Sonic Suspensions in the 19th Century Novel, Clara McWeeny, UG '25 (2770242)
When considering moments of auditory focus in the 19th century novel, rarely does one stop to consider the sonic attention paid to instances of direct speech. Readers instead find their preoccupation in the idyllic sounds of Austen’s pastoral descriptions, or the urban echoes of Dickens’ bustling, industrialized London streets. In examining the use of dialogue tags in the University of Birmingham’s 19th Century Novel Corpus, though, and in drawing connections between auditory descriptors and characters, inferences can be made about the intensely gendered utilization of sonic suspensions — words that work to interrupt moments of direct speech, characterizing the auditory features of the dialogue. While examining a fairly comprehensive and recognized list of dialogue tags as a whole, this study pays careful attention to the two most frequent instances of sonic suspensions in the corpus: “said” and “cried.” In examining the use of sonic suspension of “cried,” in particular, as well as the gender of both the authors who utilize it and the character it’s assigned to, we can come to understand the importance of not only examining what is spoken in the 19th century novel, but how it is spoken.