Structures of Feeling, Structures of Loss: Cinematic Memory and Cinematic Forgetting in Rhymes for Young Ghouls

Corey Kai Nelson Schultz

Palavras-chave: postcolonial film; indigenous cinema; Residential Schools; Canadian cinema; indigenous filmmakers

Participação: presencial

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2008-15) was formed to examine Canada’s Indian Residential Schools system, which had forcibly removed children from their families and communities since the 19th century, and its devastating effects on generations of indigenous citizens. Although it concluded that the system was a “policy of cultural genocide” and produced a list of “94 Calls to Action” in an attempt to repair relations, the commission was criticised as being ineffective; however, it did bring the issue of the residential schools to the forefront of the public consciousness and address a trauma that had been previously forgotten or denied.

During this period, Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013) was shot and produced by the indigenous Mik’maq director Jeff Barnaby. Set in 1976 on a reserve in Quebec, the characters are scarred by the intergenerational effects of racism, addiction, and residential school trauma. Although not focussed on residential schools, this film is set in the wake of the residential school system and its traumatic effects. As Raymond Williams writes, “structures of feeling” are feelings that are associated with a group at a specific time and place, which are captured and evoked in art and culture. This presentation argues that, in addition to addressing the legacy of residential schools, this postcolonial film also creates structures of feeling to commemorate residential schools survivors. Engaging with theories on haunting as symptoms of “repressed or unresolved social violence” (Gordon), and memory, which Hirsch refers to as “an act not only of recall but also of mourning… often inflected by anger, rage, and despair,” I argue that the use of spectral hauntings and episodes of recall and suppression of both memory and time creates a structure of feeling that combines mourning, anger, and despair to probe a social and cultural wound that has not been healed, and thus creates a cinema of decolonisation in an attempt to address what has never been reconciled.


Gordon, Avery F. Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008).
Hirsch, Marianne. “Past lives: Postmemories in Exile” Poetics Today, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Winter 1996), pp. 659-686.
Williams, Raymond. “Structures of Feeling,” in Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977): 128-135.


Corey Kai Nelson Schultz is an Associate Professor in Media and Communications at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China. Schultz’s research focuses primarily on contemporary Chinese film, film phenomenology, and memory studies, and has been published in the journals Museum Management and Curatorship, Asian Cinema, Film-Philosophy, Screen, Visual Communication, Moving Image Review and Art Journal, and Celebrity Studies. Schultz is the author of Moving Figures: Class and Feeling in the Films of Jia Zhangke (University of Edinburgh Press). Center for Digital Scholarship, he is currently developing Juks (jooks), a near comprehensive bibliography and interactive data-mapping project of queer West Indian and diaspora published writings from 1900 to present day.