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Title: Letterboxed : how a little container matters in twentieth-century cinema of the UK, the U.S.A., and Germany (1939-1955)
Author: Jochum, Elisa Theresa Sophie
ISNI:       0000 0004 7429 163X
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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This doctoral thesis investigates cinematic representations of letterboxes. I analyse the history of public and residential mailboxes across the UK, Germany, and the U.S.A. (1939-1955). I explore how film integrates letterboxes into its cinematic spaces, and which meanings the cinema attributes to these receptacles. Because the cinema is, like the mail system, a medium that circulates meanings and materials, I investigate what the cinema imparts about itself by representing the mail. Letterboxes served as ubiquitous contact points that linked people physically and imaginatively to the entire mail network, and to the places this network reached. Every time a person encountered a letterbox, this receptacle negotiated the rules envisaged by the postal system and the users’ opportunities to appropriate this governing system to their own liking. Letterboxes acted as constant gauges of communication, power, and, privacy in day-to-day life. I explore the usage of physical mailboxes in the cinema because film captures lifelike practices in three-dimensional space. The cinema also circulated cultural ideas in the mid-twentieth century. I produce a history of dominant perceptions of life in that era. My thesis combines postal history with film analysis. I use archival materials to historicise on-screen mailbox designs and to establish which contemporary notions of the mail the films engaged. I investigate how the cinema picks up on real-life trends but also how it creates its own versions of postal communication. My film analysis investigates fiction films from all three countries, which I complement with British non-fiction film. This thesis aims to refashion the methods through which we approach the material past. I argue that, for the mid-century population, seemingly small objects engendered constant debates over crucial meanings. I investigate two crucial media of the mid-twentieth century, the mail and movies, to explore how people organised and made sense of their world.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available