Saturation | Occurs when speech is pushed to a threshold or breaking point. Speech can be saturated by screams, emotion, information, or even silence. Saturation is a way of pushing past the established framework of speech, of disrupting or reinvigorating the flow of discourse.

Saturation is the process which brings the established framework of speech into play, by disrupting, disturbing, parodying, blurring, parasitizing, or refusing it. For example, when Daniel Balavoine hammers the one o’clock news hour with an intense, virtuosic, and relentless three-minute-long rant, he shakes up and calmly saturates the polished framework of televised news.

Involuntary effects

Saturation can be something a speaker is involuntarily subjected to, as in this case of stammering, or even extended by self-commentary about an ongoing collapse in this introduction to a conference. These examples are similar to comedian Pierre Repp’s form of saturation comedy.

Sometimes it is a friend, student, or peer’s tears that saturate the framework of speech; or, more commonly, it is the speaker’s laughter. Saturation is also caused by external events, mysterious ones in the case of television host Laure Cholewa, or non-events in the case of this cat refusing to cooperate. Tabloids have shown us what makes Jean-Luc Delarue so talkative, and we assume that this spectator is not just drinking water.

Dramatic confusion erupts when a simple complaint filed in a police station turns to effusion, when a cry for help turns to rage, when a column becomes a plea, or when a rainbow leads to ecstasy.

Through timbre and cadence, the very framework of enunciation can lead to saturation, as when Daniel Cohn-Bendit, choking up and speaking inconsistently, addresses a speech to the European Parliament on November 10, 2003 during the eight o’clock news hour on France 2.

A useful oratory tool

If this voicemail message is a case of saturation produced by a fantasized framework and set of constraints, the saturation imposed by such a framework is a necessary product of rendering action which takes place in real time, as in this horse race or soccer match.

When an activist occupies space reserved for dialogue during a live radio show, or when Marc-Olivier Fogiel interviews the rap group La Rumeur, they create situations saturated by ways of blocking speech through repetition. However, journalist Marc Kravetz turns a flaw into an art when he asks this question of dizzying proportions to writer Eduardo Manet.
In other cases, the speaker imposes both a certain content and framework to what is being said: games of accumulation in spoken-word performances by poets Anne-James Chaton, Charles Pennequin, speed contests in this “speed-debate,” hypnotizing lists in this sectarian litany, the focalization of people’s attention in this livestock auction.

The authority produced by stardom allows Francis Lalanne and Doc Gynéco to impose their saturating monologues to others. It is an absence of interlocution that allows for a controlled form of saturation to occupy speech in this excerpt of a rap beef posted on YouTube, saturation which is enhanced by interlaced registers of language in rapper Rohff’s case, or by mixing one’s native language and imagined dialects in this lecture by pastor Steve Foss.

Saturation also makes use of lack and emptiness, for example when Juliette Binoche plays with what an interview should be, reducing her answers to their shortest possible form, or when psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan highlights and dramatizes his speech with large instances of spacing.


Je me demande

Writing workshop scene, excerpt from Le Papotin, directed by Alexandre Plank for L’Atelier Fiction, France Culture, 2017.

If only this one is ours

Danez Smith, public reading of his poem Dear White America, 2014.

O Brasil nao é a republica da cobra

Janina Pasqual, speech at an anti-Dilma Rousseff demonstration, 2016.

A terra está contaminada

Pastor preaching in the street, São Paulo, 2012.

T’es qu’une merde

Five messages left on the answering machine of Nicolas Rollet, 2008.

Y’a trop d’émotion

Rod Paradot, acceptance speech, Césars ceremony, 2016. 

Soyons ensemble les derniers

Hubert Wulfranc, reaction to the terrorist attack in the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, 2016.