Reading with Sergei Eisenstein
Take a virtual tour of Sergei Eisenstein’s library.
Sergei Eisenstein stands apart in modern cinema not only because his films laid the ground for so much of what cinema was to achieve, but also because his theories shape and inform the key issues in cinema studies. These two facets of his work are seen as indissoluble elements of his influence, each informing and reflecting the other.
Eisenstein’s writings, however, represent a special challenge for scholars and students alike. The sheer volume of his output, which is still only partly published; his notoriously eclectic writing style; and most of all the variety of the sources he refers to make reading Eisenstein a difficult task. The scope of his intellectual engagement with the complex tapestry of his time can be both enthralling and baffling. He was interested in such diverse topics as Chinese theatre, Mexican ritual, Japanese kabuki and Russian icons. He also followed film theory, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, musicology, literary criticism and linguistics. Eisenstein’s insatiable reading led him to accumulate books on subjects as varied as Pavlov’s reflexology, Freud’s and Jung’s psychoanalysis, Fraser’s exploration of mythology and Stanislavsky’s theory of acting. In addition to this heady mix, reading Eisenstein is rendered even more challenging by the fact that he was a polyglot who employed words and phrases in various languages in his writings.
Watch a public talk (in French) by Ada Ackerman, co-editor of Reading with Sergei Eisenstein, on Eisenstein’s library.
Most of Eisenstein’s books have been preserved, a great heritage that no publication has ever probed. The short essays assembled here, by leading film scholars both East and West, will use these books to introduce their ideas to today’s reader and explore their place in Eisenstein’s films and writings. This is the first book to illuminate Eisenstein’s critical ideas by way of his intellectual formation.