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date: 15 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter addresses the nature of social worlds that coalesce around events of speech in two films from contemporary liberal culture: Love Actually (2003) and The King’s Speech (2010). Though one centers on romantic union and the other on the union of nation, both films culminate in scenes whose formal outlines are nearly identical: a character played by Colin Firth must deliver a speech, though his ability to speak is in some way compromised, and the coherence of a social order hangs on his ability to make his voice flow. By locating the drama of intersubjectivity in the individual’s capacity simply to produce a voice, these cases offer an alternative to a visual grammar of intimacy located in the return of the other’s gaze. Instead, they resonate with theories of liberal subjectivity that emphasize the way in which speaking itself produces an efflorescence of personhood. By focusing on speech and not the gaze, these accounts suggest that the other may be structurally negligible in cinematic scenes of recognition. The formal structure of intimate and national resolution in these films indicates a broader blueprint of liberal togetherness, one in which a certain concept of the voice sustains and unites an idea of individual expressiveness with the promise of a collectivity magnetized by feeling.

Keywords: Love Actually, The King’s Speech, cinema, Colin Firth, voice, confession, stuttering, subjectivity, film, underscore

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