This paper argues that the development of the ‘classical continuity system’ should be understood as an event belonging as much to the history of mediation as to the history of representation. The argument is based on the preliminary results of a broad survey of the use of the term ‘medium’ in the vernacular discourse (newspapers, weeklies, trade journals, fan magazines) surrounding technologies such as film in the first thirty years of the twentieth century. Becoming a medium was never a straightforward process. The focus for an examination of film’s struggle to become a medium will be Hollywood’s enduring obsession, in the post-war period, with female toilette. For toilette constitutes a scene of mediation in another sense: the mediation of nature by culture, of self by other, of private realm by public. Hollywood’s extravagant bathrooms and boudoirs brought the two senses together to produce a further mediation: of film narrative by the star system.
David Trotter is King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at the University of Cambridge. He was the co-founder and first director of the University’s MPhil in Screen Media and Cultures. He also co-founded the English Faculty’s Literature-Technology-Media research group, and is an editor of a new Open Humanities Press series, Technographies. Recent publications include Cinema and Modernism (2007), The Uses of Phobia: Essays on Literature and Film (2010), and Literature in the First Media Age: Britain between the Wars (2013).