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Author Functions, Auteur Fictions: Understanding Authorship in Conglomerate Hollywood Commerce, Culture, and Narrative

Wardak, Thomas (2017) Author Functions, Auteur Fictions: Understanding Authorship in Conglomerate Hollywood Commerce, Culture, and Narrative. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

In 1990, Timothy Corrigan identified a rising trend in Hollywood film marketing wherein the director, or auteur, had become commercially galvanised as a brand icon. This thesis updates Corrigan’s treatise on the ‘commerce of auteurism’ to a specific 2017 perspective in order to dismantle the discursive mechanisms by which commodified author-brands create meaning and value in Conglomerate Hollywood’s promotional superstructure. By adopting a tripartite theoretical/industrial/textual analytical framework distinct from the humanistic and subjectivist excesses of traditional auteurism, by which conceptions of film authorship have typically been circumscribed, this thesis seeks to answer the oft-neglected question how does authorship work as it relates to the contemporary blockbuster narrative. Naturally, this necessitates a corresponding understanding of how texts work, which leads to the construction of a spectator-centric cognitive narratorial heuristic that conceptualises ‘the author’ as a hermeneutic code which may be activated when presented with sufficient ‘authorial’ signals. Of course, authorial signals do not only emanate from films but also promotional paratexts such as posters, trailers, production diaries, and home-video special features like the commentary and behind-the-scenes documentary. These paratexts—by no means arbitrary or ancillary—are instrumental in constructing pre-textual expectations and, correspondingly, textual meaning and value. Through the exploitation of Romantic and auteurist maxims art demands an artist and the director is the film artist, the commercial projection of branded authorship sanctifies the product as unique and distinguished, rendering it irresistibly attractive to a consumer irrespective of its actual value; the bet-hedging branded author functions as an a priori guarantor of quality, which is especially important for a post-recession horizontally-integrated entertainment empire for which a film can still be a failure even if it makes dozens of millions of dollars. This thesis investigates the effect and affect of commercial brand-authorship with regards to J.J. Abrams’ authorship of Star Wars: The Force Awakens—how it manifested through a variety of media; how these media were tailored to pander to the fandom; and how online audiences responded to interviews, video-blogs, and SFX reels in order to construct their own utopian presumptive visions of the film. Yet the fetishised auteur-brand carries little interpretive weight and a sole focus on paratexts tells us even less about the textuality of contemporary authorship. Concordantly, this thesis concludes with an extensive authorial reading of Interstellar, The Hobbit trilogy, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe with an eye to how they each use their ‘authors’—and for what ends. This, in turn, leads to an expansion of Gérard Genette’s hypotheses on transtextuality and the discovery of auto-centric transtextual sub-categories: autotextuality (Interstellar), intratextuality (The Hobbit), and unitextuality (Marvel). Unlike an ahistorical auteurism that myopically valorises directorial style for its own sake, this thesis finds that there are numerous ‘types’ of authorship and that ‘Nolan’, ‘Jackson’, and Marvel’s authoriality cannot be understood without a corresponding appreciation of their industrial burdens and commercial imperatives. Constituting a dialectic on ‘authorship’ versus ‘auteurism’, Author Functions, Auteur Fictions engages with a commercialised auteurism that has evolved far beyond Corrigan’s model into a much more endemic and integral socio-economic system: the author-industrial complex.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Authorship, Auteurism, Narrative, Marketing, Branding, Cognitive Semiotics, Phenomenology, Spectatorship, Paratexts, Transtextuality, Hollywood
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Mr Thomas Wardak
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2017 13:40
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2018 00:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/18293

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