Current research: Ana Hedberg Olenina, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Media Studies, is finalizing her book Psychomotor Aesthetics: Movement and Affect in Russian and American Modernity. In the late 19th century, neurophysiology introduced techniques for detecting somatic signs of psychological experiences. Scientific modes of recording, representing, and interpreting body movement as “expressive” soon found use in multiple cultural domains. Based on archival materials, this study charts the avenues by which physiological psychology reached the arts and evaluates institutional practices and political trends that promoted interdisciplinary engagements in the first quarter of the 20th century. In mapping the emergence of a paradigm I call “psychomotor aesthetics,” this study reveals how psychophysiology influenced film acting techniques, spurred the Russian and American film industries’ inquiries into spectators’ physical reactions, and prompted literary scholars to investigate poets’ and performers’ articulation. Among the authors discussed in this study are avant-garde filmmakers Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, and Lev Kuleshov, the inventor of the polygraph lie detector William Moulton Marston, formalist scholars Viktor Shklovskii, Boris Eikhenbaum, and Sergei Bernshtein, performance theorists Genevieve Stebbins and Sergei Volkonskii, psychologists Vladimir Bekhterev, Lev Vygotsky, and Hugo Munsterberg. Both a history and a critical project, the book attends to the ways in which artists and theorists dealt with the universalist fallacies inherited from biologically-oriented psychology – at times, endorsing the positivist, deterministic outlook, and at times, resisting, reinterpreting, and defamiliarizing these scientific notions. In exposing the vastness of cross-disciplinary exchange at the juncture of neurophysiology and the arts at the turn of the 20th century, Psychomotor Aesthetics calls attention to the tremendous cultural resonance of theories foregrounding the somatic substrate of emotional and cognitive experience – theories, which anticipate the promises and limitations of today’s neuroaesthetics and neuromarketing.
Professor Olenina's film course - Fall 2018.