Mark Lynn Anderson


On his book Twilight of the Idols: Hollywood and the Human Sciences in 1920s America

Cover Interview of August 14, 2011


I wrote Twilight out of a love for late silent cinema, but the book has little to do with cinephilia or with the films themselves.

I am more concerned with the sort of audiences that the Hollywood films of the era imply and, more broadly, with the sort of society that made the late silent cinema in America possible.

While I hope that my book might add in some small way to the growing number of works that take seriously the interrelations between culture and the history of science, my greater wish is that Twilight makes it more difficult for media scholars to assume the innocence or simplicity of earlier audiences of the mass media.

Schooled in post-structuralism and postmodernism, we like to pride ourselves on having sophisticated notions about identity.  We find it fairly unimaginable that large sectors of the public prior to, say, the Second World War were capable of conceiving of identity as relational, of having a nuanced understanding of the unconscious, or of thinking race, gender, and sexuality to be amenable to personal, social, and historical transformations.  To the extent that such sophistication is cherished by us as properly the domain of social scientists, media experts, and cultural critics, I want readers of Twilight of the Idols to question at what cost such professionalization was won and at what costs it continues to be maintained.

Yet, and this is perhaps my own delusion, I wrote this book out of respect for and in solidarity with the perverts of the past.

© 2011 Mark Lynn Anderson