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'Brilliant, Pioneering Analysis': Emma Widdis Launches New Monograph at Tate Modern

Dr Emma Widdis

The Slavonic Studies community at the University of Cambridge is delighted to announce the publication of Emma Widdis’s new book, Socialist Senses: Film, Feeling and the Soviet Subject, 1917-1939 (Indiana University Press, 2017).

Dr Widdis is Reader in Russian Studies at Cambridge. The primary focus of her research is Soviet culture of the 1920s and 1930s, particularly cinema. Her major new work of Soviet cultural history traces cinema’s role in the attempt to create specifically socialist senses between 1917 and established Stalinism. Following the Russian Revolution, there was a shared ambition for a ‘sensory revolution’ to accompany political and social change. Dr Widdis explores the many ways that Soviet men and women were to be 'reborn' into a revitalised relationship with the material world.

'Drawing upon a staggering range of sources ranging from rare journals of the period to contemporary theory, Socialist Senses provides a brilliant and pioneering analysis of debates around Soviet selfhood in the 1920s and 1930s,’ says Professor Julian Graffy, Professor Emeritus of Russian Literature and Film at University College London. ‘It is a work of rare and exciting scholarly originality, written with elegance and lucidity, destined to be enormously influential in a number of fields for decades to come.'  

The launch of Socialist Senses will be marked by two major upcoming public events at Tate Modern and the British Film Institute. 

On Friday 24 November, the book is celebrated during Uniqlo Tate Late, where Dr Widdis will give a short talk and book signing as part of an exciting series of events dedicated to revolutionary culture -- from world-class exhibitions and playful artistic activations to performances by established DJs selected by NTS Radio. 

Socialist Senses will also be discussed at the British Film Institute on the South Bank on Monday 4 December, where Dr Widdis will be joined in a panel discussion by JD Rhodes (Cambridge) and Professors Ian Christie (Birkbeck) and Laura Marcus (Oxford). During this event, entitled ‘New Writings: Capitalist or Socialist Spectatorship’, Dr Widdis and Dr Rhodes will explore connections between Socialist Senses and Dr Rhodes new book, Spectacle of Property: The House in American Film. They will explore questions such as: How do films produced in capitalist and socialist contexts differ? What kind of spectators do they imagine and create? Is the very act of looking political?

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