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Publications from the project

Below you will find the peer-reviewed scientific publications that are centrally part of the voice project. Further below we include links to some recent non-refereed and outreach publications that are also associated with the project.

Kjeldgaard-Christiansen. 2024. “The Voice of the People: Populism and Donald Trump's Use of Informal Voice.” Society (e-pub ahead of print). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-024-00969-7.

Abstract: Many studies have examined characteristic verbal aspects of Donald J. Trump’s political communication, from his authoritarian rhetoric to his preference for short words and simple sentences, as expressions of his populism. This article focuses on his use of non-verbal voice quality. In analyzing the “Trump rallies” and other materials from his successful campaigning before the 2016 United States presidential election, I argue that Trump’s evocative and meaningful uses of pitch, amplitude, speech rate, rhythm, and other vocal measures combine to make his paralanguage exceptionally and counter-normatively informal, and that this informality amplifies his explicitly populist messaging. I conclude by suggesting that Trump’s informal voice solves an important problem for him: It allows him to express his populism with a deeply personal undertone, and thereby potentially to make his claims to popular identification ring intuitively true.

Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, Jens. 2024. “What Science Can't Know: On Scientific Objectivity and the Human Subject.” Poetics Today 45 (1): 1–16. hhttps://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-10938579.

Abstract: The humanities are centrally concerned with such human subjectivity—such thinking, feeling, and wondering—as goes into the appreciation of a painting or the absorbed and responsive reading of a novel. It is often argued that the intrinsic subjectivity of these experiences renders them inaccessible to objective science, which seeks to avoid subjectivity. However, this fallacious argument confuses an ontological and an epistemic sense of the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity. The subjectivity of “thinking, feeling, and wondering” describes the mode of existence of these mental states, whereas the objectivity of science describes a mode of investigation, and it is in fact very possible to investigate human mental life by means of objective methods. This article expounds the fallacy and examines its appearances in recent scholarly writings against the use of objective methods in the humanities. The fallacy, as is argued, promotes a widespread misconception that the use of objective methods in the humanities would entail a discounting, or “reduction,” of human subjectivity. By countering this misconception, this article aims to encourage humanists who are drawn to empirical methods.

Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, Jens, and Mathias Clasen. 2023. “Creepiness and the Uncanny.” Style 57 (3): 322–347. https://doi.org/10.5325/style.57.3.0322.

Abstract: To feel nervously and apprehensively “creeped out” is a familiar emotional state, but its cause—what makes something or someone “creepy”—is poorly understood. A recent evolutionary account of creepiness suggests that the emotion arises from a perceived “ambiguity about the presence of threat” (McAndrew and Koehnke 10). However, not all ambiguous threats are perceived as creepy. This article argues that specifically creepy threats arise from disrupted mentalization, by which is meant difficulties in apprehending the mind of another being in such a way as to make that being seem threateningly unpredictable. The authors propose that this explanation of creepiness also explains “the uncanny,” a concept that is closely related to creepiness and to which a much older and larger research literature attaches. Finally, it is suggested that the present account can make sense of some iconically creepy figures of horror fictions, including zombies, ghosts, and ominously unhuman children.

Collaboration between Aarhus University's Centre of Voice Studies and the Recreational Fear Lab.

Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, Jens, Michaela Hejná, Mathias Clasen, and Mark Eaton. 2023. “Evil Voices in Popular Fictions: The Case of The Exorcist.” The Journal of Popular Culture 56 (2): 226–247. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpcu.13234

Abstract: This article theorizes evil voices in popular fictions by drawing on the theory of conceptual metaphor. We argue that voices can seem expressive of evil if they give the impression of being impure, that is, sickly, infectious, and broken. The reason is that immoral thoughts and behaviors are metaphorically conceptualized as a form of sickness, and this moral sickness finds embodied expression in a sick voice. We then apply this perspective to a case study of The Exorcist, in which we analyze the vocal performance of possessed Regan’s voice actress, Mercedes McCambridge, before ending with some general observations on the moral rhetoric of purity and sickness in fictions.

Collaboration between Aarhus University's Centre of Voice Studies and the Recreational Fear Lab.

​​​​​​Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, Jens, and Michaela Hejná. 2023. “The Voices of Game Worlds: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Disco Elysium.” Games and Culture 18 (5): 578–597. https://doi.org/10.1177/15554120221115396.

Abstract: This article examines how vocal performances of characters can contribute to sociocritical storytelling in video games. We argue that the vocal performances of video game characters–and in particular their accents–can “fill in” the fictional story worlds of video games through associations with real people and places. These associations allow video games to evoke such social themes as are connected with accent, including privilege, conflict, class, and ethnicity. So evoked, these themes can then be critically examined. We apply this perspective in a sociolinguistic analysis of Disco Elysium, an expansive role-playing game in which the characters' vocal performances come to support the player's sociomoral orientation in the game world. Finally, we discuss a result of our analysis that runs counter to previous scholarship, namely that vocal stereotyping can serve to enhance, rather than to undermine, the player's critical apprehension of game worlds.

Recent non-refereed and outreach publications


Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, Jens. 2024. “What Is Creepiness and What Makes ChatGPT Creepy?" Leviathan: Interdisciplinary Journal in English (10): 1–15. https://doi.org/10.7146/lev102024144284.

Hejná, Míša. 2023. “Some Loving and Sexy Voices.” Some Islands: A Journal of Linguistics and Art 2. https://someislands.com/Misa-Hejna.