Luxury, Sensation and the Moving Image

Alice Blackhurst

Moving Image 13


10 December 2021  •  198pp

ISBN: 978-1-839540-22-6 (hardback)  •  RRP £85, $115, €99

ISBN: 978-1-839540-23-3 (paperback, 19 February 2024  )

ISBN: 978-1-839540-24-0 (JSTOR ebook)

Access online: Books@JSTOR


In recent years, the embrace of ‘slow;’ sensuous and durational forms of cinema and the moving image registers desires to immerse in phenomenological experiences of artworks as potential antidotes to our information-saturated, techno-capitalist age. Exploring shifts away from ownership, accumulation and possessive acquisition of the object towards more experiential, immaterial ‘aneconomies’ of pleasure, care, eroticism, poetry and ritual, this book tracks the evolution in understandings of the luxurious in the last decade, and luxury’s potential coalitions with cinephilia; affect; the senses and the ontology and formal quality of light (lux, lucis). Engaging with four contemporary Francophone women artists — Louise Bourgeois, Chantal Akerman, Sophie Calle and Annie Ernaux — as case studies for an inter-medial, multi-sensory, and generically ‘queer’ conception of le luxe – the book also queries luxury’s entrenched gendering as pathologized symptom of feminized experience; and both luxury and femininity’s relation to consumption; embodiment and excess under neoliberal austerity and 24/7 surveillance culture. Although in our current disaster-laden epoch, sustained thinking about luxury might appear a perverse and abstracted act, the book, via the medium of cinema and the moving image, argues that a different understanding of luxury as a ‘sensuous relation to the world;’ a slowing down of critical and attentive faculties; and a re-investment in affective acts of communal being-together may no longer be decadent but epistemologically necessary to the preservation and continued affirmation of this world.

Alice Blackhurst is an Ordinary Fellow in French at King's College, Cambridge.

Shortlisted by the Society for French Studies for the 2022 Gapper Prize, which is awarded to the best book of its year published by a British or Irish author.


  • ‘IT SITS THERE like a pale gemstone on your lap: the tall, slim, Instagrammable volume you waited for. You hold it close, you hold it tight (bluish-green, mauvish-gray), and you take a quick snapshot with your iPhone. On the cover, a redhead Delphine Seyrig is washing up, slowly massaging the nape of her neck with a striped flannel, an undeniably luscious caress. Quickly, friends ignite small fires under your post. They too know you’re going to read this work on Chantal Akerman, Annie Ernaux, Louise Bourgeois, and Sophie Calle. The title is enticing, promising: Luxury, Sensation and the Moving Image. So chic, so niche, so feminist. Le feu!’ — Adèle Cassigneul, Los Angeles Review of Books 4 May 2023
  • ‘Her corpus is comprised of four artists, all women, with a chapter devoted to each: Chantal Akerman, Annie Ernaux, Louise Bourgeois, and Sophie Calle. [...] Her four artists are a formidable group to consider together, and I applaud attention to a sampling of these fascinating works: Akerman’s Je tu il elle and Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai de Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles; Ernaux’s Passion simple and Se Perdre; Bourgeois’s soft sculptures, as well as some ofher bronzes and plaster works, and her Insomnia Drawings; and Calle’s Suite vénitienne, Douleur exquise and Prenez soin de vous. Blackhurst’s project embraces theoretical positivity that rests on citation of Gilles Deleuze and Jean-Luc Nancy, philosophers who bring creative positive energy to reimagining thought.’ — Maureen Turim, H-France 23 (August 2023), no. 138

For a contents listing, see this volume at JSTOR.

Bibliography entry:

Blackhurst, Alice, Luxury, Sensation and the Moving Image, Moving Image, 13 (Legenda, 2021)

First footnote reference: 35 Alice Blackhurst, Luxury, Sensation and the Moving Image, Moving Image, 13 (Legenda, 2021), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Blackhurst, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Blackhurst, Alice. 2021. Luxury, Sensation and the Moving Image, Moving Image, 13 (Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Blackhurst 2021: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Blackhurst 2021: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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