1. bookVolume 13 (2021): Issue 1 (December 2021)
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20 Dec 2021
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Aleksandr Bogdanov and Sergei Eisenstein on Emotions: The Affectional, the Theory of Expressiveness, and the Emotional Script

Published Online: 22 Dec 2021
Volume & Issue: Volume 13 (2021) - Issue 1 (December 2021)
Page range: 101 - 112
Journal Details
First Published
20 Dec 2021
Publication timeframe
1 time per year

In Empiriomonism, Aleksandr Bogdanov introduces the term ‘affectional’ that he borrowed from Richard Avenarius but revised in the light of William James’s theory of emotions. The ‘affectional’ is an index of energy balance between suffering and pleasure. Employing Bogdanov’s revised notions of affectional as an element of any organization or complex, Sergei Eisenstein develops the principles of expressivity. He sees emotions as an organism’s embodied reaction to its interaction with the environment. Eisenstein proposes a notion of an emotional script, which is a narrative of a prospective viewer telling what has impressed him. Aleksandr Rzheshevskiy, a scriptwriter of Eisenstein’s never completed ‘Bezhin Meadow’ (1937), became an ‘emotional scriptwriter’ in practice. The paper investigates the relations between Bogdanov’s notions of the affectional, Eisenstein’s theory of expressiveness, and the emotional script as conceived by Eisenstein and realized by Rzheshevskiy.


The Affectional and Emotional Experience: Aleksandr Bogdanov

In Empiriomonism: Articles on Philosophy (1904–1906), Aleksandr Bogdanov introduces the term ‘affectional’ that he borrows from Richard Avenarius. Delimiting the area of the affectional, he analyzes and revises the notion of experience. While falling back on Richard Avenarius’s Critique of Pure Experience (Kritik der reinen Erfahrung, 1888–1890)

Critique of Pure Experience was published in Russian translation in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1898; in 1905 it was published as a popular transcript and with a commentary by Anatoliy Lunacharskiy.

and The Human Concept of the World (Der menschliche Weltbegriff, 1891), Bogdanov yet points out that both Avenarius and Ernst Mach, when connecting experience with sense perception, missed the fact that, in the process of cognition, the senses, that is, sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch, are not separate complexes but parallel lines of experience; being associated with each other, they are united into a single entity. On a more practical level, such an approach means that one of these lines can serve as the indicator for the whole complex, while seeing just a finger or hearing someone walking can lead to identifying the object of perception as a human being (Bogdanov 1904–1906/2003: 8–9). Besides, a line of experience can serve as an organizer for the complex: for example, on the basis of visual or tactile perception as principal constituents of a complex, it is possible to reconstruct the whole complex, an example being a human body.

Developing the idea of organization, Bogdanov, like Avenarius, distinguishes between two types of line of experience – dependent, that is, reliant on the state of the nervous system, and independent, that is, free from such kind of reliance in the sense of not being reducible to sensations – and looks into emotional complexes that he categorizes as psychic processes. Although recognizing the distinctiveness of emotional complexes, Bogdanov nevertheless objects to singling them out as something purely psychic within the system of experience, and he argues that emotional complexes and psychophysical entities are constituted by elements of an equivalent nature. Bogdanov does not endorse a mind–body division, and his conception of experience is much richer than understanding it simply in terms of sensation and perception. Rather than mind–body division, he is more in line with what is now called synergetics, a theory of self-organization in open systems, when he claims that the same innervational and tactile elements, which are in various combinations constituent of physical bodies, play a substantial role in emotions. He is also more in tune with the American pragmatist philosopher William James, who saw the universe we live in as chaotic, non-reducible to an uncomplicated choice between physical interaction and complete inertness, but with ‘room in it for the hybrid or ambiguous group of our affectional experiences, of our emotions and appreciative perception’ (James 1905: 282).

Building the monistic theory of the physical and the psychic, Bogdanov seems highly concerned with placing emotions on a par with other psychic and physical combinations. The idea of organization presumes discriminating between dominant and non-dominant constitutive elements of a complex, while the idea of parallel lines of experience supposes establishing systems of links among these elements. When applied to emotional complexes, the idea of organization eliminates irreconcilable distinctions between elements in experience that are dependent on the state of the nervous system and those that are independent of it. Bogdanov divorces objectivity from the stability of a physical body in individual experience. For him, objectivity is the experiential data that have communal significance; it is the correspondence of individual experiences (Bogdanov 1904–1906/2003: 15). The virtue of such an interpretation of objectivity is that it brings to the centre of discussion the category of experience, which is in turn divided into experience organized socially and experience organized individually. In a system of organization such as Bogdanov’s, there is no ontological distinction between the real and the unreal, or, more precisely, between objects of external and internal perception. Bogdanov creates a framework for locating differences and commonalities in emotional and psychophysical complexes, arriving at the conclusion that special psychic complexes, that is, emotions, do not differ from psychophysical complexes either by their elements or by their material. The crucial assumption for his theory is that emotions result from physiological changes in a human body – the idea that comes from American pragmatism and lies at the core of the Jamesian theory of emotions.

In 1884, William James, in his ‘What Is an Emotion?’ claimed that ‘the emotional brain-processes not only resemble the ordinary sensorial brain-processes’ but also ‘are nothing but such processes variously combined’ (James 1884: 188). For James, emotions have a distinct bodily expression; the standard emotions he distinguishes, for example surprise, curiosity, rapture, fear, anger, lust, greed, and the like, are manifested through identifiable body language. James proposes a disputable thesis that ‘the bodily changes follow directly the PERCEPTION of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur IS the emotion’ (James 1884: 189–190). James is opposed to the view that an emotion is mental perception and that bodily expression follows mental affection. James says that such a sequential order is incorrect; he argues that ‘we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble, and not that we cry, strike, or tremble, because we are sorry, angry, or fearful, as the case may be’ (James 1884: 190). In the case of ignorance of the bodily component, a perception is purely cognitive in form and lacks emotional warmth. As he states: ‘We might then see the bear, and judge it best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to strike, but we could not actually feel afraid or angry’ (James 1884: 190). Therefore, according to James’s theory, emotions emerge at the physiological level as the result of motor and sensory activity, and as such constitute individual experience.

In 1885, and independently of James, Danish physician Carl Lange developed similar ideas that physiological reaction is followed by a corresponding emotional reaction. The James–Lange theory attracts Bogdanov’s attention as it fosters the idea that innervational and tactile elements play a pivotal role in emotional complexes and in shaping individual and collective experience. Moreover, the James–Lange theory has become the crucial point for Bogdanov’s departure from empiriocriticism as developed by Avenarius and his movement towards the conception of empiriomonism, which supports the ideas of Spinoza and brings Bogdanov close to American pragmatism with its conception of experience, which is based on active perception and interaction with the world.

Delimiting the concept of experience in accordance with the James–Lange theory, Bogdanov borrows from Avenarius the notion of ‘affectional’ that he revises and imbues with new meaning. For Avenarius, ‘affectional’ (from Latin affectus – ‘emotion, passion’) is emotional evaluation connected with an assessment of events. Avenarius emphasizes that, in order to be able to speak of the affectional, the subject of perception should consciously sense changes in a situation or in phenomena and be interested in those changes. In his understanding of biopotential and its balance, that is, the ongoing relation of a biological individual and the environment, suffering follows changes in vital-divergence, and, on the contrary, pleasure accompanies restoration of the balance; thus, the affectional embraces emotions balancing between ecstasy and agony; it is perception of phenomena and events accompanied by feelings of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Bogdanov labels balance as stagnation and argues that the ‘passion for the balance’, which he finds in Avenarius’s conception, is a mistake.

Bogdanov favours dynamics and evolution; for him, absence of vital-differences is not an ideal state but, on the contrary, a regression.

He criticizes Anatoliy Lunacharskiy, who published an abridged edition of Critique of Pure Experience accompanied by his commentaries in 1905

Anatoliy Lunacharskiy, Bogdanov’s collaborator and brother-in-law, attended Avenarius’s lectures on philosophy at Zurich University in 1895.

, for the failure to see a resemblance between the notion of balance and the notion of stagnation.

Falling back on Spinoza’s treatment of emotions and Theodor Meynert’s work on mental processes, Bogdanov arrives at the idea that the affectional is connected to the accumulation and dissimilation (expenditures) of energy; it is an emotional expression of increase and decrease in energy that concurs with what Bogdanov calls the algebraic sign of biopotential, a mathematical way of measuring relevant forms of energy (Bogdanov 1904–1906/2003: 135). In other words, emotional experience is not only positively or negatively affectional (feeling pleasure or feeling suffering); it also possesses intensity and is connected with physiological processes. Similar to Spinoza’s distinction between active and passive emotions, Bogdanov distinguishes between positive and negative ‘affectionals’ in the dynamic process of psychic and social selection; therefore, emotions serve as indicators of energy balance. Relations between the organism and the environment transfigure into immediate experience that has emotional character and is built with affectionals of different intensity. James, in his famous quotation, sees the world ‘as one great blooming, buzzing confusion’ (James 1890/1950, I: 488). Jamesian ‘buzzing confusion’ resembles Bogdanov’s affectional experience of life.

Vladimir Lenin sensed the link between Bogdanov and James and, in his work Materialism and Empiriocriticism (1908), criticized them both.

In Bogdanov’s empiriomonism, life is an interconnected whole of feelings (Bogdanov 1904–1906/2003: 77), where emotional complexes of human beings ‘affectionally’ interact with each other. Bogdanov’s approach, rooted in Spinoza’s treatment of emotions, Theodor Meynert’s work on mental processes, and the James–Lange theory, explains emotional responses in the organism–environment interaction through connecting psychic and physiological processes. This approach played a significant role in Eisenstein’s conception of expressiveness in cinema.

Theory of Expressiveness: Sergei Eisenstein

Sergei Eisenstein started to develop the theory of expressiveness in the early 1920s and continued into the 1930s. In the ‘Programme of Theory and Practice of Film Directing’ that he crafted in the 1930s for students at the State Institute of Cinematography in Moscow, alongside the practical training of voice and body, he paid attention to the theoretical basis of expressing emotions. Eisenstein was familiar with Ausdruckbewegung und Gestaltungskraft (1913) by Ludwig Klages and with the system of Ausdrucksgymnastik (1922) of Rudolf Bode, and he learned by practice the principles of Vsevolod Meyerhold’s biomechanics (see Bochow 2005). In the ‘Programme’, the theory of expressiveness and its history became crucial for understanding the nature of ‘expressive movement’. One of the themes for critical analysis (just before the study of Klages and Bode) was the Jamesian theory of emotions. Eisenstein connects the emotional impact that a film produces on the spectator with a reflective mirroring of the actor’s movement that, according to Eisenstein, should be natural and programmed at the same time. From his point of view, it is necessary to master the system of ‘expressive movements’ to achieve a desirable reaction of the audience (on Eisenstein and the theory of expressiveness, see Bochow 2000: 57–68). In his article ‘The Method of Making Workers’ Films’ (1925), Eisenstein defines film content as ‘the summary of all that is subjected to the series of shocks to which in a particular order the audience is to be exposed (Or more crudely: so much per cent of material to fix the attention, so much to rouse the bitterness, etc.)’ and requires its organization ‘in accordance with a principle that leads to the desired affect’ (Eisenstein 2014: 28). Eisenstein’s strategy was ‘not to show but to shock, pressure, and persuade his audience’, and the ‘attractions’ were a means to achieve that (Belodubrovskaya 2018: 3).

Discussing emotional effects, Eisenstein regularly refers to the Jamesian theory of emotions. In the article ‘Stanislavsky and Loyola’ (1937), he cites James, paraphrasing the famous quote ‘we cry not because we feel sorry but we feel sorry because we cry’. Eisenstein seems not so much interested in explaining the principles that govern the connection between bodily movements and emotions; he does not care much whether it is a chain of associations or a reflective action. More important for him is the pars pro toto rule that takes place in this case; pars (a certain angle or a position) is bound to trigger toto, which is an emotion (Eisenstein 2004: 503–504). Eisenstein finds the phenomenon described by James, that is, the connection between bodily changes and emotions, in G. E. Lessing’s Hamburgische Dramaturgie (1767–1769). Lessing seeks a way to connect intentional movements with emotions that are experienced involuntarily. In Lessing’s description of two types of actor (an emotional actor who is incapable of expressing his or her feelings through expressive movements, and an emotionally indifferent actor who is nevertheless capable of expressing emotions he or she does not feel), Eisenstein finds an interchange with Jamesian ideas and identifies montage as the principle that unites both approaches, those of James and Lessing. Breaking down the expression of emotions by the actor into its constituent elements, he claims that emotion is the result of montage and therefore the difference between the Lessing–James mechanism of emotions, on the one hand, and the system of Stanislavsky, on the other, is the difference in elements within a similar construction (Eisenstein 2004: 506–507). Eisenstein chooses to emphasize proto-structures rather than differences.

In James, one can find an initial stage of what would later become a technique of acting; it is the transition from event to arousal, then to interpretation, and finally to emotion. Reciting James’s famous example of a meeting with a bear (‘we meet a bear, are frightened and run’), Eisenstein agrees with James’s statement of the importance of emotions in human interaction with the world: ‘[W]ithout the bodily states following on the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive in form, pale, colorless, destitute of emotional warmth. We might then see the bear, and judge it best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to strike, but we should not actually feel afraid or angry’ (James 1884: 190). However, in Eisenstein’s view, Jamesian theory is applicable not so much to the actor as to the spectator. The spectator empathically co-participates in whatever happens on stage or on screen. Through mirroring and imitating an actor’s bodily dynamics, the spectator is to achieve a desirable emotional state. His perception is active; he co-produces and, therefore, co-authors a film. Eisenstein states in his lecture on biomechanics in 1935: ‘James’s point of view has a correct expression in the theatre in the audience. It’s not that the actor makes a correct movement and experiences a proper emotion – the audience reproduces that movement in a concentrated form and through it enters into the emotional state the actor is demonstrating. The secret of form lies here’ (see Law & Gordon 1996: 208). Eisenstein at that time was also influenced by Alexander Luria, who was engaged in a research project ‘on the relationship between emotions, affects, and human motorics’ and even participated in the experiments ‘to verify his explanation for the trajectory of recoil movement, which he saw as the essence of expressivity’ (Vassilieva 2019: 33). Yet another influence on Eisenstein’s thought concerning imitative reaction to a stimulus and empathy was Vladimir Bekhterev, especially his works about children’s psychology and interpersonal communication (Olenina 2021: 360).

Eisenstein, expelled from Meyerhold’s theatre in 1922 and from his school in 1924, however, adopted some of Meyerhold’s ideas and tried to interpret them through the lenses of Jamesian theory of emotions or Bogdanov’s empiriomonism, which he probably came to know during his Proletkult years (1920–1925). Mikhail Yampolskiy unveils the closeness of Eisenstein’s aesthetic views, particularly during his activity in Proletkult, to the ideas of Bogdanov, who was one of the Proletkult ideologists at that time (Yampolskiy 2009: 49–50; Tikka 2008: 64–68). In 1923, Eisenstein, as Yampolskiy points out, tried to combine Meyerhold’s biomechanics with Bogdanov’s monistic energy theory and interpreted Meyerhold’s acting as ‘a mysterious and invisible function of individuality, which is discharging of abundance of energy’ (Yampolskiy 2009: 49). Yampolskiy points out that Bogdanov based his monistic conception of world organization on the interaction of active and reactive forces. In Bogdanov’s view, any activity, decomposing or combinatorial, inevitably meets resistance, weak or considerable. However, resistance is not a separate independent notion; it is an antagonist to another activity. When two people are fighting, the activity of the first one is the resistance for the second one and vice versa (Bogdanov 1990: 427–428). Bogdanov’s ideas of vital-divergence are concordant at large with the theory of expressiveness, if one does, as did Eisenstein, see expressiveness as conflict, impulse, and struggle.

Eisenstein was familiar with Bogdanov’s concept of conflict and, as was already discussed, he was also influenced by the James–Lange theory, which serves as a conceptual base for Bogdanov’s theory of the affectional. In an unnamed manuscript written in Almaty in 1943, Eisenstein reviews the fictitious and the factual in connection with the Jamesian theory of emotions. In the situation of watching movies, the spectator is an active perceiver; mirroring an actor’s expressive movements and experiencing situations on screen, he virtually co-authors a film. In this case, one can speak of a fictive emotion action; the entirety of feelings (sensations) that the spectator experiences during the film or performance creates an illusion that he has done some work and, therefore, there is an illusion of an amount of abundant energy. Despite the fictitious character of interaction with the environment on screen, the spectator experiences a non-fictitious feeling of satisfaction with a film or performance (Eisenstein 2002: 52–53). The illusion that substitutes for a spectator (a viewer) a normal organic activity can be explained in terms of vital-divergence with Eisenstein’s emphasis on emotions. Eisenstein understands emotions as embodied reactions to the interaction with the environment (situation), and, in a close reading of his writings, it seems that he applies Bogdanov’s notion of energy to those situations, though without mentioning Bogdanov’s name.

In The Tenth Anniversary of Excommunication from Marxism, Bogdanov finalizes the conception of universal substitution that he initially develops in Empiriomonism. He explains the principle of universal empirical substitution, which is for him a method of organizing human experience, as ‘a replacement of an object (or an event) with another, real or imaginary. For example, works of art are replaced with images, together with feelings and moods that they cause in a reader, viewer or listener; instead of a ray of the sun is the sum of color rays produced through a prism. Such a kind of replacement is to be intentional; it should be done rationally and help to increase knowledge, understanding and foreknowing of things. Then the substitution is objective, otherwise it is incorrect’ (Bogdanov 1914/1995: 52–53). Bogdanov sees the origin of the substitution in human communication, since we decipher the body language of other people through the substitution of their movements with feelings using the operation of mind-reading. He claims the continuity of substitution in experience and establishes the interrelation between physiological and psychical processes (Bogdanov 1904–1906/2003: 112–113; Bogdanov 1902: 251). Bogdanov singles out five types of substitution; however, for the theory of expressiveness, the most relevant ones are those that substitute the psychical with the physical, or the physical with the psychical (Bogdanov 1904–1906/2003: 128–129). Bogdanov’s types of substitution with the physical correspond with Eisenstein’s theory of expressive movements, including his attempt to use what he called the ‘emotional script’ developed by the scriptwriter Aleksandr Rzheshevskiy.

Eisenstein proposes the notion of an ‘emotional script’, which is ‘an imaginary narrative of a prospective viewer telling the story of a film that impressed him’, in his essay on the form of a film script (1929) (Eisenstein 2004: 465–466). The emotional script is not a step-by-step narration of a story, and it does not provide detailed descriptions of film frames; rather, it gives an emotional impulse to the film director that he will employ in his work so as to evoke the projected emotions. The idea of an emotional script, though it failed in its practical application, was in the spirit of the artistic experiments of the time that were aimed at the psychological involvement of a spectator, creating works of art in which a viewer could be engaged and whose emotional reactions could be guided.

Nikolay Zhinkin, in his 1920s essay ‘Psychology of Film Perception’, develops the idea that the perception of artworks is not necessarily a one-way communication. Perception is the way to open a door for other people into an area otherwise inaccessible. The question that interests Zhinkin is whether a reversed communication is possible in the situation of watching movies. And if it is possible then the next question is where to search for it – in the behaviour of a spectator or in the intentions of a film director. It is obvious that in cinema the reaction of the audience will not change the way of acting on screen, and therefore the plot of a film is of importance; the plot determines the situation and the structure of perception. Zhinkin reveals the paradoxical situation that perception is not in the system of receiving devices but is already present in the production itself. However, he finds that it is possible to predetermine the process of film perception. Preceding the idea of inter-subjective synchronization, Zhinkin sees the main goal of filmmakers in finding ways to focus the viewers’ attention and to increase their activity in the process of watching movies. A film creator, for example a film director or a scriptwriter, should see a film before it has been created as if through the eyes of a prospective viewer (Zhinkin 1971: 214–254).

Eisenstein, and Rzheshevskiy in ‘Bezhin Meadow’ (1937), tried to accomplish (though they never completed)

One of the first emotional scripts and one of the first failures of Rzheshevskiy is A Simple Case, directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin (1930). Pudovkin said that when he first read Rzheshevskiy’s emotional script he had a strange, unfamiliar feeling, as the script was disturbing like a literary work (Pudovkin 1982: 353).

the conception of an emotional script that guides the creative process of a film director as well as the perception of a prospective viewer. Rzheshevskiy saw a future film as a unified whole (similar to Bogdanov’s organizational views), cemented by the programmed emotions of a future spectator. A film with an emotional script as its backbone requires a montage based on the principle of association in order to evoke built-in emotions. Rzheshevskiy could be seen as a fair example of a scriptwriter who seeks to influence a film director, forcing him to pay attention to the acts and mental states of characters. Episodes are connected not by chronological order but because of the author’s associations and thought flow. The scriptwriter was almost forcing a film director to see the future film through the spectators’ eyes, manipulating his emotions through agitated narration and colourful language, for example in the episode in ‘Bezhin Meadow’ where a drunk father talks to his son Stepok:

‘Eat up, my little son… Who brought you into this world?’, he suddenly asked Stepok, very softly. The boy continued eating.

‘Who brought you into this world? Me or somebody in the Political Department?’, he asked again, softly.

‘My mother’, answered Stepok, just as quietly, and calmly putting down his spoon, he got up from the table, but his father’s drunken words followed him.

‘When our God created the heavens, the water and the earth and people like you and me, my dear little son, he said…’

‘What did he say?’, asked Stepok, smiling and gathering up his things, not turning his head.

‘He said’, said the voice of his father, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, but if the son betrays his father, kill him like a dog, God says in the Holy Book, kill him immediately’.

‘Did he say that?’, said Stepok without turning his head, smiling, and moving towards the door…

Suddenly, his father, like a drunken bear, punched little Stepok in the chest with his paws and whispered, his face distorted with indescribable hatred: ‘I’ll light the stove… Do you hear me? Right now… I’ll chop you into pieces… I’ll put you in the pot… Do you hear me? I’ll cook you… And eat you… All by myself… With bread and pickles…’ (Rzheshevskiy 1982: 225).

The emotional line of the narration and the emotional link between the film viewer and what is shown on screen ties Eisenstein’s theory of expressiveness to Bogdanov’s theory of an ‘affectional’, both of which have the same root – James’s theory of emotions.

Bogdanov, Eisenstein, and Contemporary Neuroscience

In contemporary neuroscience, emotions are central to cognition. Thus, Antonio Damasio, drawing on the theories of James and Lange, argues for the importance of emotions in the evolution of consciousness. For Damasio, emotions are bodily changes that trigger feelings, which he defines as mapping such changes in brain structures,

This understanding leads him to distinguish among three closely related phenomena: ‘an emotion, the feeling of that emotion, and knowing that we have a feeling of that emotion’ (Damasio 1999: 8).

therefore ‘feelings do not arise necessarily from the actual body states … but rather from actual maps constructed at any given moment in the body-sensing regions’ (Damasio 2003: 112). Asserting the importance of body representations of the brain, Damasio explicates Spinoza’s views on the affections of the body (corporis affections) as underlying the theories of James and Lange. Spinoza, contrary to the Cartesian notion of the passions, uses the term affect [affectum] that he understands as ‘affections [affectiones] of the body by which the body’s power [potentia] of acting is increased or diminished, aided or restrained, and, at the same time, the ideas of these perceptions’ (Spinoza 1677/1996: E3d3). Bogdanov, in Empiriomonism, endorses such an understanding, but replaces the notion of power with the notion of energy. Damasio never refers to Bogdanov; however, his recent explanation of the mechanism of emotions helps retrospectively to understand Bogdanov’s conception of the affectional, since both approaches are rooted in the James–Lange theory, as was Eisenstein’s, and in Spinoza’s affections of the body.

The theoretical considerations of Eisenstein and Bogdanov are relevant to twenty-first-century scientists. They could be considered as working theories, for instance for studying emotional states of the viewers watching movies. Eisenstein already in the 1920s ‘intuited the existence of a mechanism of involuntary, nonevaluative emotional engagement – a system akin to the mirror system’ (Belodubrovskaya 2018: 9) and called that system ‘attractions’. Involuntary brain activities produced in the viewer through fast simulation (Bordwell 2007), for example involuntary suspense, explain the appeal that slapstick or stunts have, since ‘a neurological cine-fist is impossible to resist’ (Belodubrovskaya 2018: 14). Thus, in the situation of watching movies, perception of the ‘exciting fact’ on screen comes first, then this perception is followed by the bodily changes, and only afterwards comes the feeling of these changes, which is, according to James, the emotion. The viewer is immersed in the film milieu and identifies himself with one or another character. The interaction of the character with the environment on screen and the character’s movement in space owing to mirroring may cause bodily response in the viewer. Mirroring here refers to a situation where a viewer subconsciously mimics and lives through the bodily changes of the screen characters that he watches. He may instinctively respond by moving aside or back to the attack on the film character, may wiggle, vibrate, fidget, hum, and flap in excitement or impatience. According to neuropsychologist Jeffrey Zacks, though, when speaking about mirroring in the situation of watching movies, we miss an important point, namely that mirroring a facial expression, for instance, is not necessarily the same as feeling an emotion. Zacks further points out that ‘most surprising about the experience of emotion in the movies is not the grimacing and smiling, but the subjective experience of the emotion’ (Zacks 2015: 67).

To describe the connection between visual images and motor activity, James uses the term ‘ideo-motor actions’: ‘Wherever movement follows unhesitatingly and immediately the notion of it in the mind, we have ideo-motor action’ (James 1890/1950, II: 522). Zacks correlates the Jamesian understanding of the mechanism of emotions and the notion of ideo-motor actions with the way we associate an action with events in the world (Zacks 2015: 4). Following this, Zacks proposes to distinguish between two pathways that can produce an emotion from the action. The first is the appraisal path that is an emotional response to the actor’s mimics and motion as well as the situation. The second is the Jamesian path that activates the emotional programme linked to facial expressions and ideo-motor actions. If one follows this line of thinking that in everyday life we may identify several levels of the self, we may also assume that these several levels are active also when watching movies. Thus, depending on the level of consciousness involved in a certain stage of the process of movie watching, we may speak about emotional immersion (core consciousness) and back-to-reality surveillance (extended consciousness). Consciousness of bodily changes and emotional expressiveness emerges in the neocortical environment as an extension of the organism’s unconscious awareness of the environment. The immersion of the viewer in a cinematographic reality led to the birth of emotions caused by the interaction of the subject with the environment in the virtual reality of the movie. At the basis of such an approach is the assumption that cinematographic emotions have a biological basis, a view to some extent recognized by contemporary cognitivist theories (Grodal 1999; Tikka 2008; Smith 2003). These views can be argued indirectly to be indebted to the James–Lange theory of emotions, but one may also point to a previously unrecognized link to Bogdanov’s conception of the affectional, and biopotential can be pointed out as part of this intellectual inheritance.

Bogdanov uses the metaphor of a phonograph to describe the psychic processes that take place in communication. When shared, experience is different from the original experience and at the same time is related to it – the same way indentations in the foil of a phonograph, on one hand, differ from the melody they reflect and, on the other, are dependent on its structure. Through the movement of a phonograph cylinder, the indentations form a basis for reproducing the melody. Similarly, other people’s articulations become a basis for replicating their feelings and emotions, that is, the second reflection of these emotions (Bogdanov 1904–1906/2003: 80). This is where Eisenstein’s theory of expressiveness comes into play. Films are forms of conveying and transferring experience, including the emotional, at several levels. In his view, the low-order and the high-order brain processes are interconnected and work in tandem. Initially aimed at expressing and causing certain emotions, Eisenstein’s films, using expressive movements and exploiting the connection of the physical and the physiological, are creative and transformative of experience and even aspire to change mentality.

Commentary by Sergey Ogudov

In her article, Lyubov Bugaeva explores the concepts of emotional experience developed by Aleksander Bogdanov and Sergei Eisenstein in the context of the history of ideas. The author finds the origins of these concepts in the works of Richard Avenarius and William James and draws a reasonable conclusion about their influence on Eisenstein’s cinematography. She claims that, for Eisenstein, the work of screenwriter Aleksandr Rzheshevskiy was an example of intense reliving of emotional experience. She pays special attention in the article to the current idea of emotional experience developed in neuroscience and cognitive theory. Because of the heterogeneous nature of the problems raised, I would like to make two comments, which may help to broaden the context of the study.

1. The complex of Eisenstein’s ideas has once again become relevant owing to the anthropological turn in the humanities that was largely a reaction to the spread of the structural method. Among the first significant ‘reactions’ is the work by philosopher Valery Podoroga ‘The Second Screen: Sergei Eisenstein and the Cinema of Violence’, closely connected to his multi-volume study of literature Mimesis. Podoroga explores the imitation that takes place at the level of bodily reactions, by virtue of which literature can be seen as a special form of sensuality. The idea that the viewer unconsciously imitates screen characters, which Bugaeva endorses, echoes the understanding of reading as a mimetic process in Podoroga’s work. For him, engagement in reading depends on selecting ‘from the corpus of details the ones that have made the strongest impression, precisely those that our reading body has mimetically experienced and absorbed’ (Podoroga, V. 2017. Anthropograms. Saint-Petersburg: 24). Literary theorists have embraced the new concept of mimesis. Thus, Sergei Zenkin developed a thought-provoking idea of mimetic communication, which, as opposed to semiotic communication, is based on the perceptual ‘contagion’ of the reader through the text. It seems that it makes sense not only to find parallels to Bogdanov’s and Eisenstein’s concepts in neuroscience but also to discuss their mediated influence on contemporary literary and film studies.

2. Among the theorists named and discussed in the article, there is one pure ‘practitioner’ who never wrote any theoretical work or creative manifesto – the screenwriter Aleksandr Rzheshevskiy. The article considers his work as a practical application of Eisenstein’s theoretical views. Such an approach is, of course, reasonable; moreover, even Eisenstein and Pudovkin themselves suggested it. However, Rzheshevskiy said that ‘the very problem of the ‘emotional script’ was engineered by the others and imposed on him, that he was in some way entangled and used in the struggle of all against all: officials with directors, directors with playwrights, novelists from cinema with poets from cinema’ (see Grashchenkova, I. 1997. ‘Aleksandr Rzheshevskiy. Zhizn’. Kino. Teatr: bibliografiia s kommentariiami’. Kinovedcheskie zapiski, 35: 228–295). Researchers often consider his work just an ‘illustration’ of the theoretical constructions of film directors. It would be interesting, though, to study his scripts, on the one hand, in connection with the needs of film production and, on the other hand, as a literary text with its own internal principles and intentions. For example, the idea of ‘Bezhin Meadow’ was preceded by the never realized script ‘Tribunal’; motifs of ‘Bezhin Meadow’ can also be found in the script ‘In the USSR’, and the father–son conflict interested Rzheshevskiy up to the late plays written in the early 1960s.

Reply by Lyubov Bugaeva

Mind and body are not two separate entities; meaning is tied to bodily processes and constructed through parallel lines of experience. Valery Podoroga’s Anthropograms reiterates and applies to literature the idea of embodied perception, that is, that meaning is constructed in the process of watching films and is connected to sensorimotor schemas and emotional reactions. The question that Podoroga leaves behind but is worth discussing relates to the character of Eisenstein’s model of perception and of spectatorship – whether it is active or passive. Eisenstein places an emphasis on embodiment, sensorimotor activity, and emotional engagement. Engagement, which is the key factor in current participatory narrative media and performance, characterizes the relations between the viewer and the object or circumstance of art, for example film; it transforms the viewer into an actor. However, engaging the body at the level of sensory data and hence evoking kinesthetic empathy may not necessarily impart a participatory character to film-watching. Eisenstein, in his aspiration to emotionally manipulate the viewer, and Rzheshevskiy, in his desire to influence the director and through him the viewer, both valorized embodiment and prioritized emotional experience. To what degree do they control the results? How much agency was left to the spectator experiencing the film? These are the questions still to be discussed in relation to Eisenstein’s aesthetics and Podoroga’s concept of mimesis. Moreover, experimentation in creating a model for active perception, though rooted in Eisenstein’s theory of expressiveness, is not limited to his model of spectatorship.

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