Socialist Senses

Socialist Senses

Film, Feeling, and the Soviet Subject, 1917–1940
Emma Widdis
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 09/11/2017
Format: Paperback 7 color illus., 50 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-02694-1
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In a major reimagining of the history and cultural impact of Soviet film, noted film scholar Emma Widdis 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 as film could both discover the world anew and model a way of inhabiting it. Drawing on an extraordinary array of films, 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.

Author Bio

Emma Widdis is Reader in Russian Studies at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Trinity College. She is author of Visions of a New Land: Soviet Cinema from the Revolution to the Second World War and Alexander Medvedkin, and editor (with Simon Franklin) of National Identity in Russian Culture.


“A brilliant and pioneering analysis of debates around Soviet selfhood in the 1920s and 1930s. It is a work of rare and exciting scholarly originality, written with elegance and lucidity.”
 — Julian Graffy, Professor Emeritus of Russian Literature and Film, University College London

“In this original and captivating study, Widdis gives us an entirely new way of looking at early Soviet cinema. Widdis' sharp eye for detail and sure hand in applying theory gives us a work of film analysis at its best.”
 — Joan Neuberger, Professor, University of Texas at Austin

“Outstanding and important scholarship that unites many important topics with new insights and original analysis. . . . nobody has tried to think about Soviet film within this theoretical frame.”
 — Oksana Bulgakowa, author of , Sergei Eisenstein: A Biography

“Widdis’s rich and fascinating book has opened a new perspective from which to think about the Soviet cinema. ”
 — Kritika

“This study will be of great value to those researching topics such as affect, texture, and pattern (faktura); gesture; and the body in the Soviet cultural context.”
 — Choice

“The author’s often dazzling analysis opens readers’ eyes—and senses—to the vivid textures and material of the period, so much so that some might find it difficult to look at and experience early Soviet cinema in the same way again.”
 — Slavic Review

“In Socialist Senses, Widdis provides an arresting take on Soviet cinema that pushes Russian/Soviet film criticism beyond the critical frameworks of auteurism and formalism where it has long remained.”
 — InVisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture (IVC)

“Wonderfully illustrated, Socialist Senses will engage all scholars of the period: not only does Widdis add to the growing list of studies on Soviet senses, her work is the first to investigate touch and feeling and how they materialized on the Soviet screen.”
 — Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema

“This study will be of great value to those researching topics such as affect, texture, and pattern (faktura); gesture; and the body in the Soviet cultural context.”
 — Choice

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Table of Contents

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

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