Beyond the Censor and the Closet: Re-framing Eisenstein’s Memoirs as Queer Life Writing


Eisenstein, Sergei
queer life writing


The voluminous, albeit fragmented, memoiristic writings of Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein are often cited in biographical works on the director to document historical events and his attitude toward those events, or to enhance our understanding of his theoretical writings on cinematography—the memoirs do indeed contain important theoretical passages on filmmaking and the creative mind. The memoirs, however, have yet to be analysed as queer life writing, despite the author’s self-conscious thematization of sex and sexuality and of their place in life writing, which takes place throughout the memoirs, and Eisenstein’s profound playfulness on these topics, which demands interpretive readings. This article represents the first attempt at a systematic interpretation of the memoirs as queer life writing and, together with recent studies of Eisenstein’s homoerotic drawings, of the homoerotic imagery in his films, and of his interest in ‘those who love strangely’, aims to contribute to our understanding of Eisenstein’s distinctly queer performance of his sexuality. To that end, the article analyses Eisenstein’s life writing through the theoretical lens of camp, as defined by Susan Sontag in her seminal essay ‘Notes on Camp’ (1966), and further elaborated by queer linguists, such as Keith Harvey (2002), who focus on the double-voicedness and citationality of camp talk.
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