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Literature, Cinema and Politics 1930-1945

Reading Between the Frames

Lara Feigel

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This book tells the story of a generation of writers who were passionately engaged with politics and with cinema, exploring the rise and fall of a distinct tradition of cinematic literature. Dismayed by the rise of fascism in Europe and by the widening gulf separating the classes at home, these writers turned to cinema as a popular and hard-hitting art form. Lara Feigel crosses boundaries between high modernism and social realism and between 'high' and 'popular' culture, bringing together Virginia Woolf with W.H. Auden, Elizabeth Bowen with John Sommerfield, Sergei Eisenstein with Gracie Fields. The book ends in the Second World War, an era when the bombs and searchlights rendered everyday life cinematic.

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List of Illustrations
1 Radical Cinema
2 Mass observing: The 1930s documentary gaze
3 The documentary movement and mass leisure, 1930-1945
4 Camera Consciousness
5 Framing History: Virginia Woolf and the politicisation of aesthetics
6 'The savage and austere light of a burning world': The Cinematic Blitz

About the Author

Lara Feigel is Lecturer in English at King's College London. She is the co-editor (with Alexandra Harris) of a collection of essays about artistic responses to the seaside called Modernism-on-Sea (2009) and the editor of A Nosegay (2006), an anthology of literature about smell. She is also co-editing (with Natasha Spender and John Sutherland) the journals of Stephen Spender for publication in 2010.


Lara Feigel expertly disentangles the historical from the aesthetic in what was the critical moment in the evolution of film - when it began to talk and, more importantly, talk politics. Solidly based in the theory of cinetext which has developed over the last 40 years, and widely knowledgeable about the thirties, Feigel's monograph supplies an excellent foundation for future discussion and research in an increasingly central academic discipline.
- John Sutherland, Lord Northcliffe Professor Emeritus, UCL

Naïve and morally remote though the 1930s project now seems, Feigel proves conclusively, that it is worth reconstructing for important historical lessons... Readers are unlikely to disagree with the force of her case.

- Keith Williams, University of Dundee, Review of English Studies