Haptic Visuality, Sensation and Politics in Eisenstein’s film theory

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In this essay, I will analyse the convergences between haptic visuality (Riegl, Benjamin, Deleuze, Marks) and Sergei Eisenstein’s film theory. In particular, I will attempt to explore the connection between haptic visuality and Eisenstein’s ideas on rhythm, sensorial thought, organic unity, pathos and ecstasy in order to consider the extent to which they constitute the core of a ‘cinema of sensation’ that, in Eisenstein, has the peculiarity of serving a very important political drive.
Simultaneously positioned at the core of avant-garde criticism of traditional models of representation (which had a strong presence in Russian art movements such as suprematism and cubo-futurism), on the one hand, and political revolutionary ideas, on the other, cinema appears, to Eisenstein, as a privileged space in which to bring the representative imagery dominant in ‘bourgeois societies’ into question and to put art in the service of the revolution.
My intent is, thus, to assess how Eisenstein combines avant-garde aesthetic aims and experimental film practices with the goals of political engaged creations. As I will argue, this combination is achieved through the exploration of a haptic use of images that prefigure a ‘cinema of sensation’.
This essay will therefore take the form of a double analysis: on the one hand, it will examine the relationship between haptic visuality and Eisenstein’s film theories; on the other, it will question how haptic visuality plays a fundamental role in harmonizing the apparently opposite vectors of aesthetic avant-garde and materialistic political drives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-104
Number of pages17
JournalStudies in Russian and Soviet Cinema
Issue number2
Early online date28 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Eisenstein
  • Film & Philosophy
  • Sensation and Perception


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