Theories of authorship have played something of a strategic role in thedevelopment of film studies, facilitating an academic and a popular understanding of film as ‘art’: an understanding which rapidly came to be organised around the figure of the male director and his oeuvre. Subsequent explorations of genre or of narrative, along with the work of cultural studies in opening up an investigation of popular entertainment, have also enabled an address to the mainstream cinema as a meaningful form of cultural production. Such models suggested that significant patterns, structures and repetitions might be discerned across the work of individuals or production teams, across genres and modes of production. If feminist critics have re-read the performances of classical Hollywood stars, exploring in detail the nuances of gendered representation in movies of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Judith Mayne notes that ‘[s]urprisingly little…attention has been paid…to the function and position of the woman director’ (1990:98). Mayne attributes the neglect of female authorship in part to a critical determination to avoid essentialism. Since both essentialism and auteurism suggest a problematic understanding of both cinema and identity (one that is ‘untheoretical’, or perhaps simply using unfashionable theories) the topic of female authorship remains an awkward one. Constructions of authorship have a tendency to focus on the director, erasing the part played by other contributors to the

textual and extra-textual production of meaning (not least, the work of audiences). Romantic constructions of authorship can equally fail to attend to the conventions of genre, the work of performers or the economic and other industrial pressures on the processes of film-making. Such factors have produced a tendency to examine the popular cinema in terms of its textual contradictions, or in terms of the range of responses it generates rather than in a search for some originary point. Yet, at the same time, women are now working in the American film industry as directors and producers, as well as in the more established roles of screenwriters and performers, on a scale unprecedented within classical Hollywood. What significance might this have, and how might feminist scholarship, reluctant in any case to take the popular too seriously, make sense of the developing visibility of women in the popular American cinema?