Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Theory and Criticism


Dr. Christopher Keep


In an attempt to approach the persistent gravity of the classical Hollywood film spectator as an indicator o f its hegemonic populism, the dissertation conceives o f the historiography o f the silent era as a melodramatic seduction plot. Seeking to rise to the methodological challenge posed by early cinema, Freud’s seduction theory (as it has been elaborated by Jean Laplanche) is proposed as an alternative psychoanalytic model of cultural incorporation, to provide the frame to consider the constitution o f the film populism of classical Hollywood spectatorship as a series of decisive historical encounters with the alterity of film’s monstrative address. In an exploration of the bodies of work of film scholars including Linda Williams, Tom Gunning, Ben Brewster, Miriam Hansen and Mary Ann Doane, this project posits a dialectical itinerary to reimagine the transition from attractions to (narrative) seduction, and to rethink the way that the monstration o f cinema (and its cultural hypostases) comes to invade the intimacy o f the spectatorial interior. It reconsiders the decisive conflicts o f Américan silent film ’s infancy against the screen of analyses of early American Mutoscope and Biograph Company peepshows and the silent films of Cecil B. DeMille, Rudolph Valentino, and Louise Brooks.



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