Date of Award

May 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Jocelyn Szczepaniak-Gillece

Committee Members

Gilberto Blasini, Stuart Moulthrop, Michael Newman


American Cinema, Behavior, Dispositif, Domestic Space, Modernity, Spectatorship


This dissertation builds on recent historical scholarship that adds complexity to apparatus theory from the 1970s by examining the experience of film exhibition and spectatorship in the American home from 1920 to 1950. While the screen, projector, and content of home exhibition influenced the spectator’s experience, so too did the domestic environment: blurring private and public spaces loaded with sociocultural tensions of gender, sexuality, race, and class. Through my investigation of amateur filmmaking magazines, primarily Movie Makers, Home Movies, industry journals such as The Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, and more widely read magazines like Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and Architectural Record, I offer an analysis of the nuanced relationship between gender roles, class distinctions, domestic media objects, and film spectatorship. I examine how the newfound middle-class identity – entangled with the modern woman, genteel public culture, film exhibition practices, domestic interior design, and the home movie – complicates distinctions between the amateur and professional and what each term signifies. Ultimately, I argue that the material and discursive practices of these heterogenous elements form a dispositif that lends insight to contemporary spaces and modes of film spectatorship.