The Persistence of Hollywood

Thomas Elsaesser, The Persistence of Hollywood (Routledge, 2011) 408pp.

book cover

While Hollywood’s success – its persistence – has remained constant for almost one hundred years, the study of its success has undergone significant expansion and transformation. Since the 1960s, Thomas Elsaesser’s research has spearheaded the study of Hollywood, beginning with his classic essays on auteurism and cinephilia, focused around a director’s themes and style, up to his analysis of the "corporate authorship" of contemporary director James Cameron. In between, he has helped to transform film studies by incorporating questions of narrative, genre, desire, ideology and, more recently, Hollywood’s economic-technological infrastructure and its place within global capitalism.

The Persistence of Hollywood brings together Elsaesser’s key writings about Hollywood filmmaking. It includes his detailed studies of individual directors (including Minnelli, Fuller, Ray, Hitchcock, Lang, Altman, Kubrick, Coppola, and Cameron), as well as essays charting the shifts from classic to corporate Hollywood by way of the New Hollywood and the resurgence of the blockbuster. The book also presents a history of the different critical-theoretical paradigms central to film studies in its analysis of Hollywood, from auteurism and cinephilia to textual analysis, Marxism, psychoanalysis, and post-industrial analysis.

Sample Chapter


"For over forty years, Thomas Elsaesser has been an indispensable guide to Hollywood's role in the history of popular art, and his gifts are on full display in this rich collection. The essays—imaginative, bold, and crisply written—are admirably sensitive to the ambivalent place of American filmmaking in global culture, from Hollywood's golden age to today's corporate moviemaking." —David Bordwell, Jacques Ledoux Emeritus Professor of Film Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison

"Thomas Elsaesser demonstrates the power of movies by drawing on auteur studies (from Welles, Hitchcock, and Kubrick to Avatar), genres, industrial aesthetics, narrative analyses, social-symptoms, and the imperatives of corporate, global Hollywood. Throughout, Elsaesser makes the reader feel the tangled, affective energies of cinephilia. Beautifully intelligent—an essential book." —Edward Branigan, Professor of Film and Media Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Is there anything left to say about Hollywood? Thomas Elsaesser’s monumental compilation of twenty-three densely argued essays written during the last four decades, The Persistence of Hollywood, provides a straightforward, at times overwhelming answer: Yes. Elsaesser’s summary work also makes a strong argument for a lifelong engagement with Hollywood that stretches from the development and ‘genius’ of what is now commonly called the classical studio era to the contemporary blockbuster and its attendant practices of truly globalised film-making. Elsaesser’s pithy title refers to both his own continuing interest in Hollywood past and present and the remarkable ‘persistence’ and longevity of this profoundly dominant film-making system. The range of Elsaesser’s enquiry and his command of the various strands of film theory that have emerged since the 1960s are often breathtaking, and clearly illustrate the author’s importance to the field, particularly as a barometer or synthesiser of dominant and fashionable ideas and critical approaches." - Adrian Danks, RMIT University, Melbourne (full review)


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