Celeste Reeb, 2019 Jane Grant Dissertation Fellow

Celeste Reeb, Department of English, “Closed Captioning: Reading Between the Lines.”

Celeste Reeb

Abstract: Closed Captioning (CC) is a series of rhetorical choices that are influenced by concepts of normalcy. Examining CC exposes the way language attempts to contain, mark, and categorize bodies based on gender, disability, sexuality, and race. Sound scholars have begun unpacking the ways that sound constructs views of these categories, therefore this project adds onto this work by examining how CC enforces these patterns in new ways since CC makes visible in text what is implied by sound. Most academic work done on CC focuses on its technological aspects, legislation, or scientific studies which have ignored the role CC plays in people’s daily lives. By doing so, film, television, and media studies have ignored communities who utilize CC. This dissertation brings together multiple fields, such as disability studies, ethnomusicology, queer theory, sound studies, and media studies to unpack the ideological work influencing closed captioning. In doing so, this dissertation works with those who utilize closed captioning to advocate for a better quality of CC. From using early film trade journals archives to outline societies views of captions and d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing film audiences, to participating in fan captioning communities online, to close analysis of film, television, and porn, to creating interactive online components showing captions role for horror and comedy films, this dissertation utilizes a wide array of methodologies showing how CC can be approached as a field of study. A highly interdisciplinary field of study that challenges conceptions of audiences, sonic participation, language, and normalcy.