Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Elsie B. Michie


This dissertation explores the link between technology, capitalism, and the female body in 20th century cinema. It argues that commodified pleasure, or "engineered enjoyment," is always produced by establishing technological control over the female body. The scope of this dissertation is limited to films produced during the post-World War II era. In Chapter One I define "engineered enjoyment" and show how film is the prototypical example of such. In Chapter Two I examine how the cinematic apparatus works as a pleasure-producing system and explore what happens when that system breaks down, as in the 1947 film Lady in the Lake. In Chapter Three I critique post-war psychological thrillers which incorporate the idea of the breakdown within their narratives, specifically in the figure of the mentally ill woman as system "out of control". In Chapter Four I address a successful example of the engineering of the female body: the star body of M-G-M actress Esther Williams. Williams's film career was a product of the carefully orchestrated moderation of her physical body. Such controlled moderation allowed her to make the transition from screen star to celebrity spokesperson with amazing success. In Chapter Five I conclude by suggesting new areas for investigating engineered enjoyment in late 20th century culture, particularly in the post-1975 "Blockbuster" era.