18 Nov 2020 12:30pm - 2:00pm Online Event


The seminars provided a supportive, intellectually stimulating environment in which to share work and receive feedback from people in various disciplines.
– Chana Morgenstern (Early Career Fellow in Michaelmas 2018)

Part of the CRASSH Fellows Work-in-Progress Seminar Series. All welcome but please email fellowships@crassh.cam.ac.uk to book your place and to request readings. 

Dr Josephine Hoegaerts

What did it mean to sound ‘like a lady’ in the nineteenth century? How could you convey emotion through voice? And how did humans distinguish themselves from monkeys and parrots? This paper explores the history of the sound of the human voice in nineteenth-century Europe. It does not seek to reconstruct these voices, but does take their constructed nature as a point of departure. Many singers and speakers in this period went to great lengths to develop and ameliorate their voices, as is obvious from the enormous stream of pedagogical, scientific and therapeutic publications on vocal beauty and health produced at the time.

My research proposes to take that cultural and physical work of producing voice seriously, and to delve into its social aspects more specifically. It cannot answer at what pitch a rational, masculine voice was heard to speak in the nineteenth century, or what sounds led to travellers to think that non-Europeans did not stammer, but it goes a long way to explain why pitch and rhythm mattered, how the connections between gender and ethnicity, tone and syncopation, and embodied emotions were expressed, and what (vocal) practices they engendered. Rather than showing what voices sounded like, or what contemporary listeners ‘heard’, it delves into what vocal sounds meant or implied about its owners health and identity, particularly to those concerned with the production of vocal sounds. 


Dr Josephine Hoegaerts is a Visiting Fellow and will be at CRASSH in Michaelmas Term 2020.

Josephine Hoegaerts is Associate Professor of European Studies at the University of Helsinki. Her research focuses on the history of the human voice, cultural practices and politics of vocalization, and the different discourses and meanings attached to speech and song. She leads the project ‘CALLIOPE: Vocal Articulations of Identity and Empire’ on the sounding practices of oratory and political transfer in the British and French Empires. Recently, she authored ‘Women’s Voices in Educational Manuals. The Gendered Sounds of Speech Therapy, Song and Education in Europe, c.1830–1900’, Women’s History Review (2019);  ‘Learning English at the Expense of the Union? The (colonized) voice as a vehicle of knowledge and political transfer, Ennen ja Nyt: historian tietosanomat (2020) and «Acquiring a ‘manly’ tone». Audible Intersections of Masculinity and Age in the Long Nineteenth Century, Genesis: Rivista della Società Italiana delle Storiche (forthcoming). She has co-edited several journal issues on sound, music and silence, e.g. Sound and Modernity (IJHCS, 2019, with Kaarina Kilpiö) and Educational Soundscapes (Paedagogica Historica, 2017, with Pieter Verstraete). She blogs about her research at singinginthearchives.wordpress.com.

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