Rachel Morley, "Performing Femininity: Woman as Performer in Early Russian Cinema" (I. B. Tauris, 2016)


In studying the pre-Revolutionary films of Evgenii Bauer, Dr. Rachel Morley (Lecturer in Russian Cinema and Culture at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London) discovered the ubiquity of the female performer as a character in the cinema of this era, from “Oriental” and “Gypsy” dancers to ballerinas and opera singers. In her interdisciplinary 2017 monograph, Performing Femininity: Woman as Performer in Early Russian Cinema (I.B. Tauris, 2016), Morley expands her scope to encompass a large cross-section of pre-Soviet Russian film. Investigating the way in which early filmmakers utilized the image of the female performer to explore contemporary issues surrounding gender identity and the changing role of women in Russian society in the late 19th and early 20th century, Morley traces a notable shift away from complete objectification to relative agency for women on screen - a shift contingent in part on the rejection of the idealized images of women prominent in 19th-century Russian literature and art. In addition to an analysis of the female performer as a representation of social change, Morley conducts an incisive analysis of the manner by which Bauer, Drankov, Viskovskii, and other pioneers of early Russian film utilized the archetype of the female performer to develop a cinematic language through innovative cinematographic techniques. Providing invaluable insights both on the development of early Russian cinema and the evolving social and cultural attitudes surrounding gender and performance in pre-1917 Russia, Performing Femininity is essential reading for scholars and enthusiasts of both film and women’s history.
Diana Dukhanova holds a PhD in Slavic Studies and an MA in Religious Studies from Brown University. She is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Russian in the Department of Modern Languages at the College of the Holy Cross.

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