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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Professor Emma Widdis

Dr Emma Widdis
Professor of Slavonic Studies
Slavonic Studies
Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages & Linguistics
Contact details: 
Telephone number: 
+44 (0)1223 337 568

Trinity College
Trinity Street
United Kingdom



Professor Widdis came to film studies via a circuitous route that involved 'traditional' language and literature studies (where she was enthused by the relationship between text and image in 19th and 20th century literature and visual art) and an MPhil in Social and Political Theory (which allowed her to explore the interaction between culture, society and ideology). This combination of influences led to work on early Soviet cinema – and has continued to inflect her research and teaching.  She began her PhD in Cambridge, but spent a large part of it as a Visiting Fellow in Harvard University, and then in Moscow. Her first monograph, Visions of a New Land emerged out of this research, and sought to examine Soviet cinema as cultural geography. 


Teaching interests: 

Professor Widdis teaches 20th century Russian and Soviet literature and culture. She also teach widely on Russian and Soviet cinema (in its full historical range), and in the theory of cinema, with particular focus on film and the city/space, and film and the senses. 


Research interests: 

In broad terms, Professor Widdis is interested in the relationship between culture and ideology in the early Soviet period. Her research focuses in particular on Russian and Soviet cinema before 1953, and she also works extensively on visual culture, architecture and design, and popular science.


Recent research projects: 

In cinema, she focuses on the links between the political avant-garde and mainstream cinema, before the Second World War, and their shared project of constructing models of spectatorship that would correspond to new ideals of subjectivity. How could cinema create new people?

Her recent book, Socialist Senses,  traces film’s part in the Soviet project for the 'reeducation of the senses'. Recent publications emerging from this research include: 'Socialist Senses: Film and the Creation of Soviet Subjectivity', Slavic Review (2012); and 'Making Sense without Speech: Silence in Early Soviet Sound Film', in Sound, Speech, Music in Soviet and Post-Soviet Cinema (Kaganovsky and Salazkina eds, 2014).

Professor Widdis welcomes inquiries from potential MPhil and PhD students with research interests relevant to her interests.


Published works: 



  • Socialist Senses: Film, Feeling and the Soviet Subject, 1917-1939 (Indiana University Press, 2017)
  • Alexander Medvedkin (IB Tauris, 2004)
  • (with Simon Franklin) ed., National Identity in Russian Culture (CUP, 2004)
  • Visions of a New Land: Soviet Film from the Revolution to the Second World War (Yale University Press, 2003)

Selected articles:

  • Making Sense without Speech: Silence in Early Soviet Sound Film’, in Sound, Speech, Music in Soviet and Post-Soviet Cinema(Kaganovsky and Salazkina eds, Illinois UP, 2014)
  • 'Socialist Senses: Film and the Creation of Soviet Subjectivity’, Slavic Review, Vol. 71, No. 3 (2012), pp. 590-618
  • Child’s play: pleasure and the Soviet hero in Savchenko’s A Chance Encounter in Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, Volume 6, Number 3, December 2012, pp. 319-331.
  • Faktura: depth and surface in early Soviet set design, Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, 3: 1.(2009), pp. 5-32.
  • Sew Yourself Soviet: The Pleasures of Texture in the Machine Age, in: Petrified Utopia, edited by Evgenii Dobrenko and Marina Balina (Anthem Press, 2009)
  • Dressing the Part: Clothing Otherness in Soviet Cinema before 1953, in: Insiders and Outsiders in Russian Cinema, Ed. Stephen Norris and Zara Torlone (Indiana University Press, 2008) [published in Russian as Kostium, predopredelennyi rol'iu: oblachenie ''drugogo'' v sovetskom kinematografe do 1053 goda, Teoriia mody: odezhda, telo, kul'tura, Spring 2007
  • Muratova's Clothes, Muratova's Textures, Muratova's Skin. KinoKultura 8 (April 2005). [Online journal, ISSN 1478-6567]
  • Sensational: The Electrified Spaces of Platonov's Screenplays, Essays in Poetics. Andrei Platonov Special Issue Vol. II. Autumn 2002
  • The Accordion, in Russian Visual Documents: A Reader, edited by Valerie Kivelson and Joan Neuberger (Yale University Press, 2007)
  • Viewed from Below: Subverting the Myths of the Soviet Landscape, in Birgit Beumers. ed., Russia on Reels: Russian Cinema in the 1990s (IB Tauris, 1999), 66-75