Professor of English
Twentieth-Century American Literature and Film
Catherine Jurca's work in film focuses on the classical Hollywood era. She studies the relationship between the business history of the major film companies, the movies they made, and audiences. Her research focuses in particular on 1930s and 1940s film texts and the practices that went into their production, distribution, and exhibition.
Her most recent book, Hollywood 1938: Motion Pictures' Greatest Year, analyzes an unprecedented, industry-wide public relations campaign through which filmmakers and exhibitors tried to convince a deeply disenchanted public that movies were central to their lives and communities. Drawing on the records of studio personnel, independent exhibitors, moviegoers, and the motion pictures themselves, Jurca describes how the industry's troubles changed the making, marketing, and meaning of films in 1938 and beyond.
Her current research project examines the influence of the film industry's oligopolistic structure on its movies. She has also recently embarked on an extensive analysis of records from the Stanley-Warner theater chain. Daily box-office data from the mid-1930s provide an unparalleled opportunity to learn more about audience choices and how distribution and exhibition responded to as well as shaped those choices. An article from this project is forthcoming in Film History.
Jurca, who was trained as a literary critic, also studies American literature—primarily the novel—in its broader cultural contexts. Her first book, White Diaspora: The Suburb and the Twentieth-Century American Novel, argues that the suburban novel, with its focus on spiritual impoverishment and self-pity, played a central role in creating an enduring portrait of the white middle class as the victim of its own success.
White Diaspora: The Suburb and the Twentieth-Century American Novel (Princeton University Press, 2001).
Articles in Cinema Journal, Film History, Representations, The Moving Image, American Literary History, and MLQ.