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Educating the emotions: affect, genre film and ideology under Stalin

Toropova, A.; (2011) Educating the emotions: affect, genre film and ideology under Stalin. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis explores the process of 'Sovietising' the emotions through the framework of the genre film. The reorientation of the film industry in the 1930s towards mass entertainment, I argue, saw a turn to generic formulas as a means to increase the emotional impact of cinema on its audience. Although essential to the construction of 'structures of feeling' that could help support the ideological codes of Stalinist society, genre films and the affects they solicited also exposed fissures within official discourses. Whereas previous studies have emphasised the successful amalgamation of ideology and entertainment, I find an irreconcilable tension between genre cinema's tendency to excite the senses and disturb psychical balance and Socialist Realism's aim of establishing a stable, normative value system. Employing psychoanalytic theory, I posit that this tension is manifest in individual films and the contemporary debates about them, which I show, display a pervasive anxiety over affective 'excess'. Chapter one explores the conflation of 'happiness' with the masochistic enjoyment of self sacrifice in the films promoting the cult of the leader as the builder of a new joyful life. The second chapter excavates the ideological problems of incorporating the affective devices of melodrama into the Stalinist 'drama of contemporary life'. I go on to outline how the attempt to create a distinctively 'Soviet' film comedy, the topic of chapter three, prompted thorny debates over suitable forms of Soviet laughter throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Finally, chapter four explores the tensions within the Stalinist thriller between the ideological imperative of perpetuating a paranoid world view based on firm divisions between 'us' and 'them' and the genre's demand to provoke anxiety through staging the breakdown of stable boundaries. The 'education of feeling' was a deeply precarious task, I show, with the affective responses elicited by genre cinema often proving resistant to being ideologically shaped. A contribution to the history of emotions, the thesis shows the role of affect in sustaining, as well as undermining ideological mechanisms.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Educating the emotions: affect, genre film and ideology under Stalin
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > SSEES
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1336538
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