Kristen Whissel


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

Cover Interview of January 08, 2009

Editor’s note

Originally, this interview ran on the Rorotoko cover page under the headline

“Silent cinema makes visible the ambivalence around modern technologies and traffic in early twentieth century America.”

We highlighted two quotes.

On the first page:

“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.”

On the second:

“Moving picture audiences were accustomed to thinking of themselves and experiencing moving pictures as part of the “traffic” that moved into and out of cinemas.  Before the rise of the long feature, audiences could simply “drop in” to a moving picture show anytime they wanted and get up and leave at any point.”