Associate Professor of English Jared Richman has published an essay in Disability Studies Quarterly. “The Royal Treatment: Temporality and Technology in ‘The King’s Speech’” examines the intersections of class, technology, and disability in the 2010 Oscar-winning movie “The King’s Speech.”
In the essay, Richman argues that the film complicates modern scientific and critical understanding of communication disorders by rendering stuttering as a moral failure rather than by attempting to understand it as a socially constructed condition contingent upon established societal and temporal norms. The essay identifies the social codes enforcing correct and eloquent speech that create a political and social climate for “compulsory fluency,” the socially imperative verbal facility promoted as necessary to participate in public life.
With its emphasis on the nobility of the title character, the film masks an inherent tension between media technology and the lingering social stigma surrounding disability, says Richman. “ ‘The King’s Speech’ thus situates compulsory fluency as an essential component of modern kingship,” he writes. By examining the film’s strategic deployment of radio technology alongside its troubled representation of class and its fraught invocation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the essay frames attitudes toward vocal disability within the context of royalty, patriarchy, and national identity.