Mass Observing: The 1930s Documentary Gaze

Lara Feigel

in Literature, Cinema and Politics 1930-1945

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780748639502
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652938 | DOI:
Mass Observing: The 1930s Documentary Gaze

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This chapter explores the multiple and complex viewpoints that were combined in the documentary gaze. It also examines filmic technique, and in particular cross-class montage. In Bronislaw Malinowski's or Storm Jameson's terms, Mass-Observation failed, at least in its early years, to maintain the objectivity found in films like Coal Face. In The Pub and the People John Sommerfield, a working man among the workers, was the Mass-Observing figure in the crowd. The prime example of 1930s cross-class photo montage is Bill Brandt's 1936 The English at Home, which provides a cross-section of English life. Writers, such as Sommerfield, Henry Green, Jameson and James Barke drew fairly explicitly on the cinema in their 1930s cross-class montage. A pronounced example of bodily disjunction in Living occurs within the doubling of the love triangles.

Keywords: documentary gaze; cross-class montage; Mass-Observation; John Sommerfield; Bronislaw Malinowski; Storm Jameson; Henry Green; James Barke; Bill Brandt

Chapter.  14001 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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