‘I know it to be synthetic but it affects me strongly’: ‘Dead Mabelle’ and Bowen's emotion pictures

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Bowen's writing is well recognised for its preoccupation with the cinema, and its cinematic techniques, leading recent criticism to align her writing with the experimentations and innovations of literary modernism. As a result Bowen's cinema writing has been read after modernism, and, in particular, after Virginia Woolf. Through a close reading of Bowen's critically neglected 1929 cinema short story ‘Dead Mabelle’, however, I show how Bowen is not simply writing in the wake of Woolf's cinema aesthetics, but in dialogue with them. Although similarly preoccupied with the cinema affects - or emotion pictures- that fund Woolf's writing, Bowen's story highlights the philosophic blind spots on which these aesthetics turn. Rather than agree with modernist aesthetics, 'Dead Mabelle' offers a critical counterpoint to modernist writing about the cinema that deconstructs the very discourses with which her work has been aligned.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-185
Number of pages23
JournalTextual Practice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2013


  • Bowen
  • affect
  • emotion
  • cinema
  • subjectivity
  • Woolf
  • modernism
  • aeshetics
  • short story
  • 'Dead Mabelle'

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