Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Stages, pages, and screens: The industrialization of genre and the early American cinema
by Phillips, Wyatt D., Ph.D., New York University, 2013, 768; 3602706
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the development of genre in American cinema from its origins to 1914. Genre has long functioned as a structure of communication between artists and their audiences, organizing repetitions and variations among cultural products, but the Second Industrial Revolution, in the latter decades of the nineteenth century, transformed the role that genre played in the production and circulation of cultural goods. My work proposes a history of this "industrialization of genre" in correspondence with the development of practices and strategies for the emergent motion picture trade in America.

Studying the business culture and the business of culture in the era of motion pictures' emergence, I demonstrate that though the technology and the material good of motion pictures were unique to the cinema, its commercial strategies clearly originated within the transformation of the industrial landscape and were already common to the concomitant media and entertainment trades. With this context in place, my analysis shifts to the systematization of genre particular to the American motion picture trade, locating the establishment of genre in relation, first, to transformations in the principal commodity and primary consumer. I then investigate several aspects central to the development of genres and a genre system unique to the medium of motion pictures: the emergence of the nickelodeon as a medium-privileging dispositif; the maturation of a discourse community in the trade press predominantly concerned with films; and the shift toward the horizontal alignment and vertical integration common to contemporaneous industries. The final section studies the institutionalization of genre, looking beyond the industrially determined structures to emphasize the legislation against other forms of duplication and finally to the development of a consciousness of film genres as a new type of foreknowledge for making meaning.

The institutionalization of moving pictures, I conclude, can now be further identified in relation to three genre-specific markers: the coordination of genre practices across the various sectors of the industry; the development of a medium-specific genre system; and the emergence of a motion-picture genre consciousness that helped to determine common protocols of interpretation for the mass audience of the industrially catalyzed cinema.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Simon, William G.
Commitee: Lant, Antonia, McCarthy, Anna, Polan, Dana, Solomon, Matthew
School: New York University
Department: Cinema Studies
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 75/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Economic history, Film studies
Keywords: American cinema, Business culture, Copyright law, Early cinema, Genre, Industrialization
Publication Number: 3602706
ISBN: 978-1-303-55942-6
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