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JOHNSON, Timothy

Winter 2016, 46.5, pages 434-458

Paving the Way to Prosperity: Ford Motor Company’s Films, Interstitial Rhetoric, and the Production of Economic Space in the Interwar Period

Abstract: This essay examines the production of economic space as a rhetorical project in the motion picture work of Ford Motor Company between 1918 and 1945. On film, Ford’s overlapping visual narratives worked to position abstractions like markets, commodities, and class as spatially experienced entities grounded in the materiality of roads, village industries, and national parks. When presented to an American public working through ideas of national identity, isolationism, and economic depression during the interwar period, these films played an integral role in shaping the trajectory of the American landscape to this day. Moreover, in taking up this set of artifacts, I position Ford Motor Company as a unique category of spatial rhetor—an institutional figure large enough and powerful enough to generate and distribute narratives that can crack open the codified elements of social life and insert, in the newly-formed intermediary spaces, images of individuals performing industrial or corporate identities.


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