Critical Inquiry: Spectacle of Property

By Pamela Robertson Wojcik
Critical Inquiry

Spectacle of Property (John David Rhodes)ISpectacle of Property, John David Rhodes successfully establishes the house as central to the American cinematic imagination, “the ground of realist representation” and “one of the most powerful metonymic signifiers of American cultural life” (pp. vii, viii). While the house signals privacy, enclosure, autonomy, stability, prosperity and more, Rhodes focuses especially on the house as a spectacle of property. Rhodes suggests that the spectacle of property links cinematic spectatorship to country-house tours and the cabinet of curiosities, all designed to immerse us in the spectacle of other people’s property. Rhodes’ project entails rethinking cinema spectatorship as an experience of short-term tenancy, in which the spectator “pays for the right to occupy a space to gaze up at a space they can never occupy” (p. 13). Throughout, Rhodes situates the house amidst discourses of modernity, architectural history, and the considerations of gender and race that underlie the spectacle of property.

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