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Jennifer Voss

Media, De Montfort University

Thesis title:

Performing Emotion: Women's screen acting and the transition from silent to sound cinema, 1926-1934

Utilising performance theories developed within Drama Studies, this project will bring an interdisciplinary perspective to traditional film history scholarship, in the investigation of women’s performances of emotion during the transition from silent to sound cinema. Contributing to the development of women’s film history, this thesis will consider a range of key female actors, including Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Joan Crawford, Madeleine Carroll and Mabel Poulton, in a comparative study of their silent and sound performances within films from Britain and America from 1926 -1934. Adhering to a feminist perspective, the focus on these women’s necessarily evolving and carefully constructed performances of emotion, will serve to challenge essentialist ideologies that highlight women as naturally aligned with emotion.

Research Area

  • Media



  • Book Review: Tom Cantrell and Christopher Hogg (eds) (2018) Exploring Television Acting, London: Bloomsbury, Methuen Drama, in Journal of British Cinema and Television, 16:1



  • Fairy-tales, Film Stars, and Fragmented Histories: Using the Archive to Uncover Women's Experiences in Early Hollywood, New Approaches to Silent Film Historiography: Technology, Spectatorship and the Archive, University of Leeds
  • Catch 'em young, treat 'em rough, tell 'em nothing': A Study into the Emotional Exploitation of Women in Silent Cinema, Women in Hollywood Symposium, De Montfort University 


  • Women, Emotion, and Melodrama: Blurring the Boundaries of Performance in Mary Pickford's Tess of the Storm Country (1922), Exploring Boundaries in Film and Television, Cinema and Television History (CATH) Research Centre Postgraduate Conference, De Montfort University
  • Women, Emotion, and Melodrama: Reconsidering Performative Perspectives of Melodrama for the Silent Screen, Genre Studies: Now! BAFTSS Annual Conference, University of Bristol


  • "The Hardest Working Girl in Hollywood": Clara Bow, Louise Brooks and the Welfare of the Performer, Doing Women's Film and Television History III: Structures of Feeling, Women's Film and Television History Network, De Montfort University
  • The Emotional Machine: Clara Bow, Louise Brooks and the Welfare of the Performer in Training, Drama and Performance Conference, Sapienza University, Rome


  • 'Performative Persona: A Comparative Study of Louise Brooks and Clara Bow', Outlines: MA Performance Practices and Research Showcase, De Montfort University 

Public Engagement & Impact


  • Vampirella: A Live Script-Reading, Regent Street Cinema, London

          Production Assistant


  • Introduction to screening of Pandora's Box (1929) at Phoenix Cinema, Leicester

          Public Talk

  • Event CoordinatorTonite Let's All Make Love in Leicester: Peter Whitehead and the Long 1960s Conference, De Montfort University, Leicester

          Event coordinator


  • 1960's Cinema Going Research Project, Picturehouse Cinema, Central London/De Montfort University, Leicester

          Production Assistant

  • Beyond the Borders of Dissonance: Launching the Peter Whitehead Archive, De Montfort University, Leicester

          Event coordinator

Other Research Interests

·       Actor training histories 

·       Exploitation of women in the film industry

·       Welfare/ethics in actor/performance training

·       Film/Star/Theatre/Performer archives

·       Fan magazines