Socialist Senses
339 pages

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This major reimagining of the history of Soviet film and its cultural impact explores the fundamental transformations in how film, through the senses, remade the Soviet self in the 1920s and 1930s. Following the Russian Revolution, there was a shared ambition for a 'sensory revolution' to accompany political and social change: Soviet men and women were to be reborn into a revitalized relationship with the material world. Cinema was seen as a privileged site for the creation of this sensory revolution: film could both discover the world anew, and model a way of inhabiting it. Drawing upon an extraordinary array of films, noted scholar Emma Widdis shows how Soviet cinema, as it evolved from the revolutionary avant-garde to Socialist Realism, gradually shifted its materialist agenda from emphasizing the external senses to instilling the appropriate internal senses (consciousness, emotions) in the new Soviet subject.

Note on Translation and Transliteration
Introduction: Feeling Soviet
1. Avant-Garde Sensations
2. Material Sensations
3. Textile Sensations
4. Socialist Sensations
5. Primitive Sensations
6. Modern Sensations
7. Socialist Feelings
8. Socialist Transformations
9. Socialist Pleasures
Conclusion: The Death of Sensation
Glossary of Russian Terms



Publié par
Date de parution 11 septembre 2017
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780253027078
Langue English

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This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
2017 by Emma K. Widdis
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
The Association of American University Presses Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Widdis, Emma, 1970- author.
Title: Socialist senses : film, feeling, and the Soviet subject, 1917-1940 / Emma Widdis.
Description: Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 2017. | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2017014166 (print) | LCCN 2017028835 (ebook) | ISBN 9780253027078 (eb) | ISBN 9780253026330 (cl : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780253026941 (pb : alk. paper)
Subjects: LCSH: Motion pictures-Soviet Union-History and criticism.
Classification: LCC PN1993.5.R9 (ebook) | LCC PN1993.5.R9 W525 2017 (print) | DDC 791.430947-dc23
LC record available at
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For Jason, Barney, and Iona
Note on Translation and Transliteration
Introduction: Feeling Soviet
1 Avant-Garde Sensations
2 Material Sensations
3 Textile Sensations
4 Socialist Sensations
5 Primitive Sensations
6 Modern Sensations
7 Socialist Feelings
8 Socialist Transformations
9 Socialist Pleasures
Conclusion: The Death of Sensation
Glossary of Russian Terms
M Y FIRST BOOK , Visions of a New Land , was a spatial history of Soviet Russia on-screen before the Second World War. This one is a sensory history. It uncovers film s role in an imagined remaking of the Soviet self through the senses, revealing a potent dream that the Bolshevik revolution in social and political structures might be accompanied by a revolution in human sensory experience. It is both a new account of Soviet cinema in the vital years from the revolutionary avant-garde to established Socialist Realism, and a new cultural history of Soviet Russia. Socialist Senses tells a story of early Soviet culture through touch, texture, and material, showing the importance of embodied experience in the creation of models of Soviet subjectivity during this formative period. Focusing on the twin concepts of sensation ( oshchushchenie ) and texture ( faktura ), I challenge established narratives of Soviet culture, offering an original perspective on the core preoccupations of the age.
Socialist Senses reveals the scale and reach of the materialist-sensory ambition in Soviet culture, and its impact on cinema. The book operates at macro- and microlevels. It is at once a close reading of films surfaces and textures, an account of the evolution of Soviet cultural ideology, and a picture of how filmmakers negotiated and adapted their formal preoccupations to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world. It can be read as a series of close-ups, exploring how the relationship between the body and the world was configured. But it is also organized to provide a chronological (and conceptual) overview of this complex period from 1917 to 1941. Each chapter explores a particular manifestation of the materialist-sensory project in Soviet culture; within these broad conceptual frameworks, each examines a number of films, some known and canonical, and others less so. Throughout the book, I show how these films emerged as part of a wider shared social and political context.
Together, the chapters of this book reveal an ambitious project for the remaking of the Soviet subject in the postrevolutionary years: the forging of an alternative psychological model in which the psyche would be formed in direct relation to a sensory, embodied encounter with the world. They also track a historical evolution. By the late 1930s, emotion and consciousness had replaced sensation as the index of a specifically Soviet selfhood. The utopian dream of sensory revolution was at an end. Against the background of this evolution, the book traces the continuities and ruptures in Soviet cinema s materialist project. It charts the flowering, and the failure, of the dream of socialist sensations.
I AM PRIVILEGED to belong to two institutions that have supported my work on this book generously: my thanks go to Trinity College and the University of Cambridge. I am also grateful to the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Cambridge Humanities Research Grants Scheme, for research leave and technical support.
It is impossible to do justice to the debt of gratitude that I owe to Julian Graffy. His support for my work, and willingness to read the text with characteristic intellectual generosity, vast breadth of knowledge, and a remarkably acute eye, have been extraordinary. The wonderful Susan Larsen, Joan Neuberger, Simon Franklin, Michael Kunichika, and Rosalind Blakesley have also all read sections of the text, and I have profited greatly from their careful input, spirited argument, and wry humor. I have been stimulated by conversation with, and suggestions from, so many scholars, including Petr Bagrov, Phil Cavendish, Katerina Clark, Evgenii Dobrenko, Anne Eakin Moss, Samuel Goff, Nikolai Izvolov, Lilya Kaganovsky, Sergei Kapterev, Christina Kiaer, Antonia Lant (and Klemens Gruber and the Texture Matters team), Stephen Lovell, Rachel Morley, Evgenii Margolit, Eric Naiman, Anne Nesbet, Ana Olenina, Sergei Oushakine, Elizabeth Papazian, Jan Plamper, Susan Reid, JD Rhodes, Jane Sharp, Nariman Skakov, Susanne Str tling, Mark Steinberg, and Maia Turovskaia. I am extremely grateful to the anonymous readers of the manuscript for their valuable suggestions and support. The book has also benefited from colleagues responses when I have presented portions of it in institutions including Stanford University, Princeton University, Bristol University, University College London, and the University of Sheffield. I owe a great debt to all my colleagues in the Department of Slavonic Studies, as well as to my graduate and undergraduate students, who continually stimulate my passion for this period of Soviet cultural history. Viktor Listov remains an important interlocutor-absent or present-in all my thinking about Soviet cinema.
Other people have provided invaluable practical support. Isobel Palmer and Anna Toropova were invaluable research assistants. Max Anley and Olenka Dmytrk both helped greatly with practical matters. The director and staff at Gosfil mofond of Russia (Nikolai Borodachev, Oleg Bochkov, Petr Bagrov, and particularly Alisa Nasrtdinova, who was extremely generous with her time) have been unfailingly helpful: unless otherwise mentioned, all frame stills are reproduced with their kind permission. I also always owe a debt of gratitude to the wonderful team at the Museum of Cinema (Moscow)-Naum Kleiman, of course, but also Kristina Iur eva and Elena Dolgopiat. For help with the preparation of images, I thank also Chris Jones, and the staff at the Tretyakov, Novgorod, and Kyiv Museums of Art, and at the Hillwood Museum, Tate Gallery, and McDougall Auction House. The book found a perfect home with Indiana University Press, and I am profoundly grateful to Raina Polivka, Gary Dunham, Janice Frisch, David Miller, and Melissa Dalton, without whose enthusiasm and care it would not have been possible.
While I have been writing this book, friends and family have provided much needed sustenance, both literal and metaphorical. I thank them all, and in particular: Cherry Goddard, Su Goddard, Suzanne Nicholas, Jan Pester, Rachel Polonsky, Laura Robson-Brown, Anne and Jerry Toner, Sally Standley, Muriel Zagha, Dianna Widdis, and Michael Widdis.
Finally, it does not seem merely coincidental to me that this book has sheets, laundry, material, and making at its center. It has been produced during a period of my life that has involved quite a lot of textile, and a great deal of making. The other (human) things that I have made in this period are far more significant than this book. My deepest thanks go to Jason, Barney, and Iona, for providing the joy in the midst of it all.
Material emerging from research undertaken for this book appeared in the following publications: Cinema and the Art of Being: Towards a History of Early Soviet Set Design, in A Companion to Russian and Soviet Cinema , edited by Birgit Beumers, 314-336. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016; Making Sense without Speech: the Use of Silence in Early Soviet Sound Film, in Sound, Speech, Music in Russian and Soviet Cinema , edited by Lilya Kaganovsky and Maria Salazkina, 100-116. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014; Child s Play: Pleasure and the Soviet Hero in Savchenko s A Chance Meeting (1936), Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema 6: 3 (2013), 319-333; Socialist Feelings: Film and the Creation of Soviet Subjectivity, Slavic Review 71, no. 3 (Fall 2012), 590-618. It has been significantly changed in preparation of Socialist Senses .

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