Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies (PhD)

Degree Level



Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies


Thomas Rosteck

Committee Member

Thomas Frentz

Second Committee Member

Frank Scheide


Communication and the arts, Biocultural, Dragnet, Jack Webb, Police procedural, Television


Prior to 1948 there was no “police procedural” genre of crime fiction. After 1948 and since, the genre, which prominently features police officers at work, has been among the more popular of all forms of literary, televisual, and cinematic fiction. The received history suggests that much of the credit for this is due to Jack Webb, creator of Dragnet.

This study complicates that received history and traces the historical emergence of this signifying practice to early 20th century ideologies of Social control and the conjuncture of Social forces that ultimately coalesced in the training practices of the Los Angeles Police Department, which was itself at this time undergoing unprecedented change. It is there that the form is born as “cop art”, an expressive formula unique to a new American police subculture. From these beginnings the genre has established an important presence within the global media landscape.

In tracing the genre’s circulation within the cultural economy, 1948-present, I consider the intersection of the cultural and the biological, or, simply, the biocultural. The biocultural perspective asserts that Social behaviors, even signifying practices such as the procedural, may be motivated or otherwise determined not exclusively by culture or nature, but co-determined; i.e., the product of an evolved human nature acting in relation to the constructed environments (culture) resulting from human symbolic action.