After the third iteration of a graduate seminar testing the explanatory power of the hypothesis that the studio, not the director, screenwriter, or even producer should be regarded as the author of Hollywood motion pictures, a couple of graduate students presented me with a placard intended for my office door. It read: “Jerry Corp: Inquire Within.” The sign was a joke, but a telling one, not only because I had slipped into ventriloquizing corporations in order to affirm the movies’ projections of their interests, strategies, and obsession, but also because the enterprise that I warily began in the 1990s did eventually turn into a truly corporate project, which has absorbed many voices and many ideas from those and subsequent seminars, contributions which I have amplified and synthesized into a narrative and an argument that, I hope, will vindicate my students’ confidence and zeal.
I simply could not have completed this book without the enthusiasm, generosity, and challenges of the numerous superb graduate students I have had the good fortune to teach at Johns Hopkins in the 1990s, Vanderbilt from 1998 to 2003, and at University of California, Irvine, from 2003 on. At the risk of inadvertently omitting someone, let me gratefully list the names of those former graduate students who made memorable contributions: Jared Gardner, Cathy Jurca, Abigail Cheever, Courtney Berger, Mark McGurl, Matthew Sewell, Jason Gladstone, Lisa Siraganian, Kyle Dawson Edwards, Ellen Levy, Brian Rajski, and Matthew Mieskoski. John Williams and Matthew Harrison each read several unmercifully long chapters—shorter and better now, thanks to their penetrating comments. I want to give special thanks to a handful of former graduate students, who have been my partners in the classroom and whose own work and critical judgments have been crucial to the development of my argument: J. D. Connor, Charles Dove, Drayton Nabers, and Michael Szalay Connor and Szalay have been extraordinarily helpful in editing the final draft.
I have been the beneficiary of encouragement, criticism, and advice from many friends and colleagues over the years. Thanks to my unfailingly patient,