Kristen Whissel


On her book Picturing American Modernity: Traffic, Technology, and Silent Cinema

Cover Interview of January 08, 2009


I think Picturing American Modernity is particularly relevant to our current experiences and the events that the book covers will resonate with contemporary readers.  The book begins with a national crisis: the explosion that sunk the Battleship Maine, killing hundreds of American soldiers and starting two overseas wars, the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War, changed the way most Americans thought about themselves, their place in the world, and the various technologies and media that shape everyday life.  The early 2000s repeated this pattern with 9/11/01, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the experience of revolutionary technological change.  Even the “white slavery scandal” echoes in current debates about, and representations of, new media, the internet, and the vulnerability of children or young women to sexual predators, real or mythological.  Picturing American Modernity provides insight into a moment in American history, including film history, when what we consider “old” technologies were actually new, and it shows how the experiences, debates, and disasters that seem so new to us today are actually quite old.

© 2009 Kristen Whissel