Visualising voice: analyzing spoken recordings of nineteenth-century French poetry

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This article presents a digitally-assisted mode of close listening as an innovative way of analyzing poetry, through the implementation of a recently-developed web-based tool called Visualising Voice, initially conceived to facilitate performance studies of French poetry. The article begins by establishing the status of close listening practices and their importance as a means of studying poetry in French, as well as considering the possibilities afforded by applying these practices to studying poetry in other languages. It then goes on to examine how the Visualising Voice tool can be applied to case studies of two poems—Charles Baudelaire’s ‘L’Albatros’ (‘The Albatross’) and Paul Verlaine’s ‘Green’—each performed by three different speakers. The article argues that close listening using the Visualising Voice tool reveals subtle differences in the handling of metrical features and differences in performance styles of the same poem, which would be unlikely to be perceived by traditional listening methods. The article thus contends that close listening practices not only take the study of poetry beyond traditional modes of textual analysis but also that facilitating these practices through digital methodologies—such as those offered by the Visualising Voice tool—can transform the way in which poetry is read and understood beyond the academic sphere, in particular by general and younger audiences.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfqz073
Pages (from-to)737-758
Number of pages19
JournalDigital Scholarship in the Humanities
Issue number4
Early online date8 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Sound studies
  • Digital humanities
  • poetry
  • performance
  • close listening
  • French literature
  • French poetry


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