The Strange Lover: The Anti-Nationalist Politics of Sergei Paradjanov's Tableaux-vivants

Comparative Literature Luncheon Series
Apr 03, 2017
12:15 PM to 01:30 PM
102 Kern

Leah Feldman, University of Chicago

This talk takes up the anti-nationalist politics of Soviet filmmaker Sergei Paradjanov’s cinematic aesthetics in his 1988 film Ashik Kerib, The Strange Lover, a retelling of Mikhail Lermontov’s 19th century Russian orientalist tale of the same name. Paradjanov’s manipulation of the tableau-vivant troubles the distinction between flat and moving images, as well as two and three dimensional perspective. Engaging with a broader reading of Paradjanov’s films, which participate in a queer aesthetics and politics, I illustrate how The Strange Lover transforms the figure of the heroic lover into the beloved object of the viewer’s gaze. This inversion challenges Soviet Realist aesthetics and discourses of Soviet progress that rely upon a hetero-masculinist model of the Soviet subject. Paradjanov’s tableaux recuperate the flatness of the image by embracing the affective capacities of the beloved and the contemplative gaze of the viewer.

Leah Feldman is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago. Her research explores the poetics and the politics of global literary networks, focusing on critical approaches to translation theory, semiotics, postcolonial theory, and Marxist aesthetics. Her current interests include contemporary formations of Eurasianist thought in new right media and communes, performance art, and alternative forms of socio-political collectivity. Her book project On the Threshold of Eurasia: Orientalism and Revolutionary Aesthetics in the Caucasus,1905-1929 exposes the ways in which the idea of a revolutionary Eurasia informed the interplay between orientalist and anti-colonial discourses in Russian and Azeri poetry and prose. Tracing translations and intertextual engagements across Russia, the Caucasus and western Europe, it offers an alternative vision of empire, modernity and anti-imperialism from the vantage point of cosmopolitan centers in the Russian empire and Soviet Union. 

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