Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Robert Singer

Subject Categories

American Studies | Communication


Digital; Flí¢neuse; Gaze; Griffith; Modernity; Traffic


This thesis explores cinema and the conceptual presence of Charles Baudelaire's nineteenth century flâneur; in particular, it examines how this modernist notion relates to cinematic technique and issues associated with female spectatorship through an analysis of the white slave genre in both early and contemporary American cinema. Seven early films are examined: How They Do Things on the Bowery (Porter, 1903), The Boy Detective, or The Abductors Foiled (McCutcheon, 1908), The Fatal Hour (Griffith, 1908), The Miser's Heart (Griffith, 1911), The Muskateers of Pig Alley (Griffith, 1911), The Inside of the White Slave Traffic (Beal, 1913), and Traffic in Souls (Tucker, 1913). Three contemporary films are examined: Taken (Morel, 2008), Holly (Moshe, 2006), and Trade (Kreuzpaintner, 2007). The focus is on formal issues such as film editing techniques like parallel editing, and demonstrates how this creates a self-reflexive critique regarding hegemonic norms.

This thesis also argues that the development of feature-length film production is intimately connected with developments in urban modernity and American social problems in the early twentieth century, namely sex trafficking, therefore presenting an important historical moment in which the rethinking of narrative storytelling norms simultaneously, and often self-reflexively, challenge social traditions regarding women. Furthermore, it illustrates how the reemergence of the white slave genre in the twenty-first century is linked to social anxieties regarding paternal dominance in a post-9/11 milieu and likewise addresses the problematic nature of the flâneuse in a digital culture.