Aesthetics, Politics and the Entanglement of Cognitive and Emotional Responses

Bale Kjersti

Abstract


How works of literature and film deal with political ideas and concepts like solidarity, equality, democracy and feminism is a pertinent question in literature and film studies today. And how the reader or spectator responds to such works is decisive when it comes to political impact. But do not the political effects of literature and film pertain just as much to qualities exceeding the cognitive or intellectual? Are not emotional responses equally important when it comes to enhancing the reader’s political responsibility and imagination? And is it altogether possible to disentangle cognitive from emotional responses? These and related questions will provide a framework for looking into a couple of examples from literature and film, mainly the Berwick Street Film Collective’s Nightcleaners (1975), an aesthetically groundbreaking documentary charting the 1970–1972 campaign to unionize the women who cleaned office blocks at night in London.

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