This provocative work takes issue with the idea that Socialist Realism was mainly the creation of party leaders and was imposed from above on the literati who lived and worked under the Soviet regime. Evgeny Dobrenko, a leading expert on Soviet literature, argues instead--and offers persuasive evidence--that the aesthetic theories underpinning Socialist Realism arose among the writers themselves, born of their proponents' desire for power in the realm of literary policymaking. Accordingly, Dobrenko closely considers the evolution of these theories, deciphering the power relations and social conditions that helped to shape them.
In chapters on Proletkult, RAPP, LEF, and Pereval, Dobrenko reexamines the theories generated by these major Marxist literary groupings of the early Soviet Union. He shows how each approached the problems of literature's response to the presumed social mandate of the young communist society, and how Socialist Realism emerged as a conglomerate of these earlier, revolutionary theories. With extensive and detailed reference to supporting testimony and documents, Dobrenko clearly demonstrates how Socialist Realism was created from within the revolutionary culture, and how this culture and its disciples fully participated in this creative process. His work represents a major breakthrough in our current understanding of the complex sources that contributed to early Soviet culture.
In the postwar years, Italy underwent a far-reaching process of industrialization that transformed the country into a leading industrial power. Throughout most of this period, the Italian Communist Party (PCI) remained a powerful force in local government and civil society. However, as Stephen Gundle observes, the PCI was increasingly faced with challenges posed by modernization, particularly by mass communication, commercial cultural industries, and consumerism. Between Hollywood and Moscow is an analysis of the PCI’s attempts to cope with these problems in an effort to maintain its organization and subculture. Gundle focuses on the theme of cultural policy, examining how the PCI’s political strategies incorporated cultural policies and activities that were intended to respond to the Americanization of daily life in Italy. In formulating this policy, Gundle contends, the Italian Communists were torn between loyalty to the alternative values generated by the Communist tradition and adaptation to the dominant influences of Italian modernization. This equilibrium eventually faltered because the attractive aspects of Americanization and pop culture proved more influential than the PCI’s intellectual and political traditions. The first analysis in English of the cultural policies and activities of the PCI, this book will appeal to readers with an interest in modern Italy, the European left, political science, and media studies.
"Beyond Glasnost is a thoughtful exploration of the past decade's cultural and political ferment in Eastern Europe. It is also something else: an argument—in a deceptively unassuming, anti-ideological voice—about how to conceive of and move toward freedom; an argument that could hardly be more relevant to the roiling debates on the Western left."—Ellen Willis, Village Voice
In this provocative book, Matthew Lenoe traces the origins of Stalinist mass culture to newspaper journalism in the late 1920s. In examining the transformation of Soviet newspapers during the New Economic Policy and the First Five Year Plan, Lenoe tells a dramatic story of purges, political intrigues, and social upheaval.
Under pressure from the party leadership to mobilize society for the monumental task of industrialization, journalists shaped a master narrative for Soviet history and helped create a Bolshevik identity for millions of new communists. Everyday labor became an epic battle to modernize the USSR, a fight not only against imperialists from outside, but against shirkers and saboteurs within. Soviet newspapermen mobilized party activists by providing them with an identity as warrior heroes battling for socialism. Yet within the framework of propaganda directives, the rank-and-file journalists improvised in ways that ultimately contributed to the creation of a culture. The images and metaphors crafted by Soviet journalists became the core of Stalinist culture in the mid-1930s, and influenced the development of socialist realism.
Deeply researched and lucidly written, this book is a major contribution to the literature on Soviet culture and society.
In Cultural Revolution and Revolutionary Culture, Alessandro Russo presents a dramatic new reading of China's Cultural Revolution as a mass political experiment aimed at thoroughly reexamining the tenets of communism. Russo explores four critical phases of the Cultural Revolution, each with its own reworking of communist political subjectivity: the historical-theatrical “prologue” of 1965; Mao's attempts to shape the Cultural Revolution in 1965 and 1966; the movements and organizing between 1966 and 1968 and the factional divides that ended them; and the mass study campaigns from 1973 to 1976 and the unfinished attempt to evaluate the inadequacies of the political decade that brought the Revolution to a close. Among other topics, Russo shows how the dispute around the play Hai Rui Dismissed from Office was not the result of a Maoist conspiracy, but rather a series of intense and unresolved political and intellectual controversies. He also examines the Shanghai January Storm and the problematic foundation of the short-lived Shanghai Commune. By exploring these and other political-cultural moments of Chinese confrontations with communist principles, Russo overturns conventional wisdom about the Cultural Revolution.
A long-awaited corrective to the controversial idea of world literature, from a major voice in the field.
Katerina Clark charts interwar efforts by Soviet, European, and Asian leftist writers to create a Eurasian commons: a single cultural space that would overcome national, cultural, and linguistic differences in the name of an anticapitalist, anti-imperialist, and later antifascist aesthetic. At the heart of this story stands the literary arm of the Communist International, or Comintern, anchored in Moscow but reaching Baku, Beijing, London, and parts in between. Its mission attracted diverse networks of writers who hailed from Turkey, Iran, India, and China, as well as the Soviet Union and Europe. Between 1919 and 1943, they sought to establish a new world literature to rival the capitalist republic of Western letters.
Eurasia without Borders revises standard accounts of global twentieth-century literary movements. The Eurocentric discourse of world literature focuses on transatlantic interactions, largely omitting the international left and its Asian members. Meanwhile, postcolonial studies have overlooked the socialist-aligned world in favor of the clash between Western European imperialism and subaltern resistance. Clark provides the missing pieces, illuminating a distinctive literature that sought to fuse European and vernacular Asian traditions in the name of a post-imperialist culture.
Socialist literary internationalism was not without serious problems, and at times it succumbed to an orientalist aesthetic that rivaled any coming from Europe. Its history is marked by both promise and tragedy. With clear-eyed honesty, Clark traces the limits, compromises, and achievements of an ambitious cultural collaboration whose resonances in later movements can no longer be ignored.
Models of Nature studies the early and turbulent years of the Soviet conservation movement from the October Revolution to the mid-1930s—Lenin’s rule to the rise of Stalin. This new edition includes an afterword by the author that reflects upon the study's impact and discusses advances in the field since the book was first published.
Passionate Amateurstells a new story about modern theater: the story of a romantic attachment to theater’s potential to produce surprising experiences of human community. It begins with one of the first great plays of modern European theater—Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in Moscow—and then crosses the 20th and 21st centuries to look at how its story plays out in Weimar Republic Berlin, in the Paris of the 1960s, and in a spectrum of contemporary performance in Europe and the United States. This is a work of historical materialist theater scholarship, which combines a materialism grounded in a socialist tradition of cultural studies with some of the insights developed in recent years by theorists of affect, and addresses some fundamental questions about the social function and political potential of theater within modern capitalism. Passionate Amateurs argues that theater in modern capitalism can help us think afresh about notions of work, time, and freedom. Its title concept is a theoretical and historical figure, someone whose work in theater is undertaken within capitalism, but motivated by a love that desires something different. In addition to its theoretical originality, it offers a significant new reading of a major Chekhov play, the most sustained scholarly engagement to date with Benjamin’s “Program for a Proletarian Children’s Theatre,” the first major consideration of Godard’s La chinoise as a “theatrical” work, and the first chapter-length discussion of the work of The Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, an American company rapidly gaining a profile in the European theater scene.
Passionate Amateurscontributes to the development of theater and performance studies in a way that moves beyond debates over the differences between theater and performance in order to tell a powerful, historically grounded story about what theater and performance are for in the modern world.
This book explores the tradition, impact, and contemporary relevance of two key ideas from Western Marxism: Georg Lukács's concept of reification, in which social aspects of humanity are viewed in objectified terms, and Guy Debord's concept of the spectacle, where the world is packaged and presented to consumers in uniquely mediated ways. Bringing the original, yet now often forgotten, theoretical contexts for these terms back to the fore, Johan Hartle and Samir Gandesha offer a new look at the importance of Western Marxism from its early days to the present moment-and reveal why Marxist cultural critique must continue to play a vital role in any serious sociological analysis of contemporary society.
A different kind of history, Stalin’s School brings a unique human dimension to the Soviet Union of the 1930s and a new understanding of Stalinism as a cultural and psychological phenomenon.
From 1931 to 1937, School No. 25 was the most famous and most lavishly appointed school in the Soviet Union—instructing the children of such prominent parents as Joseph Stalin, head of the Communist Party, Viacheslav Molotov, head of the Soviet State, and Paul Robeson, American actor and singer. Relying on published records, materials in eleven archives, accounts left by visiting foreigners—including the prominent American educator George Counts—and thirty six interviews with surviving pupils from the 1930s, Holmes brings the school to life. The school's administrators, teachers, pupils, friends, and foes become companions as well as objects of this study as we walk the schools halls, enter its classrooms, eavesdrop on feuding officials who debate its fate, and learn something of what the school and the period meant for its youth. Photographs of the school's teachers and students, and reproductions of the students' notebooks, drawings, and watercolors add personality to this compelling story.
Holmes uses the experience of School No. 25 as a microcosm and mirror of Stalinism, illuminating the interplay of state and society in decision making, and providing an opportunity to examine Stalinism from ideological, cultural, and psychological perspectives. While placing the school's history in the context of the coercion, corruption and repression of the 1930s, Holmes challenges the prevailing view that state and public spectacle on the one hand, and society and private life, on the other, were contrasting entities. School No. 25 molded these elements into an organic whole. In the intimate setting of Stalin's School, the degree of acceptance of Stalinism transcends historians' customary reference to the fear or privilege a Soviet citizen experienced. In a mutually reinforcing way, forced compliance and voluntary choice moved individual teachers and pupils to accept a structured environment both at school and in society as the means to a powerful, prosperous, and just Soviet Union.