Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize

2021 Recipient

Ana Hedberg Olenina

Psychomotor Aesthetics: Movement and Affect in Modern Literature and Film

Established in 1983, the Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize, sponsored by the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) and the Stanford University Center for Russian and East European Studies, is awarded annually for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences published in English in the United States in the previous calendar year.

Winner: Ana Hedberg Olenina
Title: Psychomotor Aesthetics: Movement and Affect in Modern Literature and Film (Oxford University Press).

Ana Hedberg Olenina’s Psychomotor Aesthetics deftly explores the interconnections in the early Russian twentieth century between aesthetic philosophy and psychophysiological phenomena—essentially, the interface between art and the body. Across a range of practices—Futurist poets’ exploration of how recitation influences the listener’s perception of verse; attempts by Soviet cinematographers to use actors’ gestures to trigger kinesthetic responses in viewers; Proletkul’t interest in the role that bodily movement plays in labor efficiency—Olenina shows how avant-garde artistic experimentation in Russia unfolded in a close dialogue with concurrent research in the fields of psychology and physiology. Drawing on a truly impressive erudition in an extensive list of Russian, German, French, and English sources, her study definitively situates a now-familiar picture of experimentation by the Russian avant-garde in its deeper intellectual context of technological innovation (devices for recording, measuring, lighting) and evolving scientific knowledge (and quasi-knowledge) about the mind’s interaction with the body. Olenina suggests that the early Russian twentieth century experimentations also provide important insights for contemporary neuroscience and advocates for the “neurohumanities.” Her luminous study, at once meticulously detailed and nimbly alert to resonances across several fields, will become a definitive contribution to Russian and Soviet cultural studies for some time to come.

Honorable Mention: Ronald Grigor Suny