Making It Big: Picturing the Radio Age in King Kong

  • Mark McGurl
Part of the Geocriticism and Spatial Literary Studies book series (GSLS)


This chapter argues that the American corporation in the 1920s and 1930s was undergoing an “ontological” crisis, negotiating its ambivalent identity as both a nebulous legal fiction and an expanding, ever more concrete force in American life. Artifacts of corporate power and self-representation from the period, such as skyscrapers and radio towers, risked exposing corporate influence as a physical embodiment of exploitative business practice and therefore subject to the counterthrusts of labor activism, antitrust legislation, and public criticism. McGurl interprets the 1933 film King Kong as an “elliptical” allegory of such corporate self-representation, a text that fruitfully displays the ambivalent aims of business to promote a “corporate theology” through large-scale, visible iconography but simultaneously maintain an invisible, semi-mystical status.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark McGurl
    • 1
  1. 1.Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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