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Hollywood 1939

ENGL 392.402
Monday 2:00-5:00pm

For critics and fans, 1939 is a year that crystallized the cultural and even artistic potential of the Hollywood studio system: This, after all, was the year of such revered works as Gone With the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, among others. Intending to avoid any notion of special genius or historical accident or such-like, this course sets out to account for Hollywood achievement in concrete material, industrial, and social terms: What was the Hollywood system and what sorts of films did it produce and how and to what effect? We will look at studio structure and its operations, institutional support and pressure (for example, the role of censorship and regulation), the role of critics, audience taste, and so on. While we will draw on important secondary studies, some readings will be drawn from texts of the time in order to garner as immediate and vivid a picture of the functioning of the Hollywood system at a moment often assumed to represent its pinnacles of achievement.

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