front cover of Aesthetics of Alienation
Aesthetics of Alienation
Reassessment of Early Soviet Cultural Theories
Evgeny Dobrenko
Northwestern University Press, 2005
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.

front cover of Anna Karenina and Others
Anna Karenina and Others
Liza Knapp
University of Wisconsin Press, 2018
Liza Knapp offers a fresh approach to understanding Tolstoy's construction of his novel Anna Karenina and how he creates patterns of meaning. Her analysis draws on works that were critical to his understanding of the interconnectedness of human lives, including The Scarlet Letter, Middlemarch, and Blaise Pascal's Pensées. Knapp concludes with a tour-de-force reading of Mrs. Dalloway as Virginia Woolf's response to Tolstoy's treatment of Anna Karenina and others.

front cover of The Archaeology of Anxiety
The Archaeology of Anxiety
The Russian Silver Age and its Legacy
Galina Rylkova
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007

The “Silver Age” (c. 1890-1917) has been one of the most intensely studied topics in Russian literary studies, and for years scholars have been struggling with its precise definition. Firmly established in the Russian cultural psyche, it continues to influence both literature and mass media. The Archaeology of Anxiety is the first extended analysis of why the Silver Age occupies such prominence in Russian collective consciousness.

Galina Rylkova examines the Silver Age as a cultural construct-the byproduct of an anxiety that permeated society in reaction to the social, political, and cultural upheavals brought on by the Bolshevik Revolution, the fall of the Romanovs, the Civil War, and Stalin's Great Terror. Rylkova's astute analysis of writings by Anna Akhmatova, Vladimir Nabokov, Boris Pasternak and Victor Erofeev reveals how the construct of the Silver Age was perpetuated and ingrained.

Rylkova explores not only the Silver Age's importance to Russia's cultural identity but also the sustainability of this phenomenon. In so doing, she positions the Silver Age as an essential element to Russian cultural survival.


front cover of Bergson and Russian Modernism
Bergson and Russian Modernism
Hilary L. Fink
Northwestern University Press, 2012
Bergson and Russian Modernism provides a portrait of the early twentieth-century intersection of literature, philosophy, and art, showing how the Russian reception of Bergsonian philosophy helped to define Russian Modernism. By drawing on various works of Russian religious thought, Symbolism, Post-Symbolism, and the absurd, Fink examines Bergson's appeal to Russian modernists interested in breaking free of traditional concepts of time and space and in reclaiming the direct link with reality that had been broken by nineteenth-century rationalism and empiricism.

front cover of The Chekhovian Intertext
The Chekhovian Intertext
Dialogue with a Classic
Lyudmila Parts
The Ohio State University Press, 2008

In The Chekhovian Intertext Lyudmila Parts explores contemporary Russian writers’ intertextual engagement with Chekhov and his myth. She offers a new interpretative framework to explain the role Chekhov and other classics play in constructing and maintaining Russian national identity and the reasons for the surge in the number of intertextual engagements with the classical authors during the cultural crisis in post-perestroika Russia.   

The book highlights the intersection of three distinct concepts: cultural memory, cultural myth, and intertextuality. It is precisely their interrelation that explains how intertextuality came to function as a defense mechanism of culture, a reaction of cultural memory to the threat of its disintegration.

In addition to offering close readings of some of the most significant short stories by contemporary Russian authors and by Chekhov, as a theoretical case study the book sheds light on important processes in contemporary literature: it explores the function of intertextuality in the development of Russian literature, especially post-Soviet literature; it singles out the main themes in contemporary literature, and explains their ties to national cultural myths and to cultural memory. The Chekhovian Intertext may serve as a theoretical model and impetus for examinations of other national literatures from the point of view of the relationship between intertextuality and cultural memory.


front cover of Conversations in Exile
Conversations in Exile
Russian Writers Abroad
John Glad, ed.
Duke University Press, 1993
An entire generation of Russian writers have been living in exile from their homeland. Although today's glasnost has special meaning for many of these banished writers, it does not dissolve their experience of forced separation from their country of origin. In Conversations in Exile, John Glad brings together interviews with fourteen prominent Russian writers in exile, all of whom currently live in the United States, France, or Germany. Conducted between 1978 and 1989, these frank and captivating interviews provide a rich and complex portrait of a national literature in exile.
Glad's introduction situates the three distinct waves of westward emigration in their historical and political framework. Organized by genre, the book begins with discussions with the older generation of writers and then moves on to more recent arrivals: the makers of fantasy and humor, the aesthetes, the moralists, and the realists. Each voice is compelling for its invaluable testimony--some reveal startling insights into the persecution of dissidents under Soviet rule while others address the relationship between creativity, writing, and conditions of exile. Taken together these interviews reveal the range of modern Russian writing and document the personalities and positions that have made Russian writers in emigration so diverse, experimental, and controversial.

The Writers: Vasily Aksyonov, Joseph Brodsky, Igor Chinnov, Natalya Goranevskaya, Frifrikh Gorensetin, Roman Goul, Yury Ivask, Boris Khazanov, Edward Liminov, Vladimir Makisimov, Andrei Siniavsky and Maria Rozanova, Sasha Sokolov, Vladimir Voinovich, Aleksandr Zinoviev

John Glad: You're a Russian poet but an American essayist. Does that bring on any measure of split personality? Do you think you are becoming less and less Russian?
Joseph Brodsky (recipient of 1987 Nobel Prize for Literature): That's not for me to say. As far as I'm concerned, in my inner self, inside, it feels quite natural. I think being a Russian poet and an American essayist is an ideal situation. It's all a matter of whether you have (a) the heart and (b) the brains to be able to do both. Sometimes I think I do. Sometimes I think I don't. Sometimes I think that one interferes with the other.


front cover of Corporeal Words
Corporeal Words
Mikhail Bakhtins Theology Discourse
Alexandar Mihailovic
Northwestern University Press, 1997
This text explores Mikhail Bakhtin's reliance on the terms and concepts of theology. It begins with an identification of the theological categories and terms recalling Christology in general and Trinitarianism in particular that emerge throughout Bakhtin's long and varied career. Alexander Mihailovic discusses the elaborately wrought subtextual imagery, wordplay, and palpable orality of Bakhtin's theology of discourse, and explores the role that theology plays in supporting Bakhtin's ideas about the anti-hierarchical drift of language and culture.

front cover of The Cossack Hero in Russian Literature
The Cossack Hero in Russian Literature
A Study in Cultural Mythology
Judith Deutsch Kornblatt
University of Wisconsin Press, 1992

This is the first book to study the development of the Cossack hero and to identify him as part of Russian cultural mythology. Kornblatt explores the power of the myth as a literary image, providing new and challenging readings of Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoi, and a host of other writers.


front cover of Dehexing Sex
Dehexing Sex
Russian Womanhood During and After Glasnost
Helena Goscilo
University of Michigan Press, 1996
Glasnost and the collapse of the Soviet Union revolutionized Russian society. What effects, however, did they have on the status, role, and image of women in Russian culture? Examining the past turbulent decade of transition to "democracy" and a market economy, Dehexing Sex traces the ways in which Russia's concept of womanhood both changed and remained the same, taking into account dominant ideologies and social philosophies, sociopolitical organizations, women's writings, literary criticism, film, and popular cultural forms such as pornography.
The lively, engaging chapters of this book examine texts by contemporary women writers in the context of the political, social, economic, biological, psychological, and aesthetic transformations that helped define them. Goscilo reveals that the Russian cultural revolution has reshaped the female image in varied and often contradictory ways. While increased interaction with the West fostered gender awareness, it also introduced imported Western sexist practices--especially the exploitation of female bodies--formerly proscribed by a puritanical censorship. Popular magazines, newspapers, and television propagated the image of woman as mother, ornament, and sexual object, even as women's fiction conceived of womanhood in complex psychological terms that undermined the gender stereotypes which had ruled Soviet thinking for more than 70 years.
With the aid of feminist and cultural theory, Dehexing Sex investigates the overt and internalized misogyny that combined with the genuinely liberalizing forces unleashed by Gorbachev's policy of glasnost and perestroika. It exposes Russia's repressive romance with womanhood as a metaphor for nationhood and explores Russian women's ironic recasting of national mythologies.
"Impressive . . . an important contribution to Russian studies and to women's studies. The author is an outstanding scholar, an energetic and original thinker, and her writing sparkles with imagination and wit." --Stephanie Sandler, Amherst College
Helena Goscilo is Associate Professor and Chair of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Pittsburgh.

front cover of Economies of Feeling
Economies of Feeling
Russian Literature under Nicholas I
Jillian Porter
Northwestern University Press, 2017
Economies of Feeling offers new explanations for the fantastical plots of mad or blocked ambition that set the nineteenth-century Russian prose tradition in motion. Jillian Porter compares the conceptual history of social ambition in post-Napoleonic France and post-Decembrist Russia and argues that the dissonance between foreign and domestic understandings of this economic passion shaped the literature of Nicholas I’s reign (1825 —1855).
Porter shows how, for Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, and Faddei Bulgarin, ambition became a staging ground for experiments with transnational literary exchange. In its encounters with the celebrated Russian cultural value of hospitality and the age-old vice of miserliness, ambition appears both timely and anachronistic, suspiciously foreign and disturbingly Russian—it challenges readers to question the equivalence of local and imported words, feelings, and forms.
Economies of Feeling examines founding texts of nineteenth-century Russian prose alongside nonliterary materials from which they drew energy—from French clinical diagnoses of “ambitious monomania” to the various types of currency that proliferated under Nicholas I. It thus contributes fresh and fascinating insights into Russian characters’ impulses to attain rank and to squander, counterfeit, and hoard. Porter’s interdisciplinary approach will appeal to scholars of comparative as well as Russian literature.

front cover of Endquote
Sots-Art Literature and Soviet Grand Style
Marina Balina, Nancy Condee, and Evgeny Dobrenko
Northwestern University Press, 1999
Sots-art, the mock use of the Soviet ideological clichés of mass culture, originated in Soviet nonconformist art of the early 1970s. An original and provocative guide, Endquote: Sots-Art Literature and Soviet Grand Style examines the conceptual aspect of sots-art, sots-art poetry, and sots-art prose, and discusses where these still-vital intellectual currents may lead.

front cover of Enemies of the People
Enemies of the People
The Destruction of Soviet Literary, Theater, and F
Katherine Bliss Eaton
Northwestern University Press, 2002
"Katherine Eaton has compiled a collection of essays on the destruction of the arts in Russia in the 1930s. The essays provide information about what we know was lost, and speculation about what might have been lost, in the Stalinist Great Purge"

front cover of Epic Revisionism
Epic Revisionism
Russian History and Literature as Stalinist Propaganda
Edited by Kevin M. F. Platt and David Brandenberger
University of Wisconsin Press, 2006

Focusing on a number of historical and literary personalities who were regarded with disdain in the aftermath of the 1917 revolution—figures such as Peter the Great, Ivan the Terrible, Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Mikhail Lermontov—Epic Revisionism tells the fascinating story of these individuals’ return to canonical status during the darkest days of the Stalin era. 

    An inherently interdisciplinary project, Epic Revisionism features pieces on literary and cultural history, film, opera, and theater. This volume pairs scholarly essays with selections drawn from Stalin-era primary sources—newspaper articles, unpublished archival documents, short stories—to provide students and specialists with the richest possible understanding of this understudied phenomenon in modern Russian history.

“These scholars shed a great deal of light not only on Stalinist culture but on the politics of cultural production under the Soviet system.”—David L. Hoffmann, Slavic Review

front cover of Erotic Utopia
Erotic Utopia
The Decadent Imagination in Russia's Fin de Siecle
Olga Matich
University of Wisconsin Press, 2007

The first generation of Russian modernists experienced a profound sense of anxiety resulting from the belief that they were living in an age of decline. What made them unique was their utopian prescription for overcoming the inevitability of decline and death both by metaphysical and physical means. They intertwined their mystical erotic discourse with European degeneration theory and its obsession with the destabilization of gender. In Erotic Utopia, Olga Matich suggests that same-sex desire underlay their most radical utopian proposal of abolishing the traditional procreative family in favor of erotically induced abstinence.

2006 Winner, CHOICE Award for Outstanding Academic Titles, Current Reviews for Academic Libraries
Honorable Mention, Aldo and Jean Scaglione Prize for Studies in Slavic Languages and Literatures, Modern Language Association

“Offers a fresh perspective and a wealth of new information on early Russian modernism. . . . It is required reading for anyone interested in fin-de-siècle Russia and in the history of sexuality in general.”—Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, Slavic and East European Journal

“Thoroughly entertaining.”—Avril Pyman, Slavic Review

front cover of Finding the Middle Ground
Finding the Middle Ground
Krestovskii, Tur, and the Power of Ambivalence in Nineteenth-Century Russian Women's Prose
Jehanne Gheith
Northwestern University Press, 2004
Though among the most prominent writers in Russia in the mid-nineteenth century, Evgeniia Tur (1815-92) and V. Krestovskii (1820-89) are now little known. By looking in depth at these writers, their work, and their historical and aesthetic significance, Jehanne M. Gheith shows how taking women's writings into account transforms traditional understandings of the field of nineteenth-century Russian literature. Gheith's analysis of these writers' biographies, prose, and criticism intervenes in debates about the Russian literary tradition in general, Russian women's writing in particular, and feminist criticism on female authors and authority as it has largely been developed in and for Western contexts.

front cover of The First Epoch
The First Epoch
The Eighteenth Century and the Russian Cultural Imagination
Luba Golburt
University of Wisconsin Press, 2014
Modern Russian literature has two “first” epochs: secular literature’s rapid rise in the eighteenth century and Alexander Pushkin’s Golden Age in the early nineteenth. In the shadow of the latter, Russia’s eighteenth-century culture was relegated to an obscurity hardly befitting its actually radical legacy. And yet the eighteenth century maintains an undeniable hold on the Russian historical imagination to this day. Luba Golburt’s book is the first to document this paradox. In formulating its self-image, the culture of the Pushkin era and after wrestled far more with the meaning of the eighteenth century, Golburt argues, than is commonly appreciated.
            Why did nineteenth-century Russians put the eighteenth century so quickly behind them? How does a meaningful present become a seemingly meaningless past? Interpreting texts by Lomonosov, Derzhavin, Pushkin, Viazemsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and others, Golburt finds surprising answers, in the process innovatively analyzing the rise of periodization and epochal consciousness, the formation of canon, and the writing of literary history.

Winner, Marc Raeff Book Prize, Eighteenth-Century Russian Studies Association

Winner, Heldt Prize for the Best Book by a Woman in Slavic/Eastern European/Eurasian Studies, Association for Women in Slavic Studies

Winner, Best Book in Literary and Cultural Studies, American Association of Teachers of Slavic and Eastern European Languages

front cover of Freedom and Responsibility in Russian Literature
Freedom and Responsibility in Russian Literature
Essays in Honor of Robert Louis Jackson
Elizabeth Cheresh Allen and Gary Saul Morson
Northwestern University Press, 1994
Robert Louis Jackson has long been recognized on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the foremost Dostoevsky scholars in the world. Freedom and Responsibility in Russian Literature collects twenty essays by distinguished scholars (many former students of Jackson's) and admiring colleagues on some of the foremost questions in Russian studies. Whatever the specific topic, these essays manifest a determination to exercise the critical independence and integrity exemplified by Jackson throughout his long career.

front cover of High Stakes of Identity
High Stakes of Identity
Gambling in the Life and Literature of Nineteenth-Century Russia
Ian M. Helfant
Northwestern University Press, 2002
Russian life and literature of the nineteenth century abounded with scenes of gambling--nowhere more prominently than in the lives and work of three of Russia's greatest writers: Pushkin, Tolstoi, and Dostoevskii. Focusing on the intersection of gambling performances in society and in literature, this book reveals the significance of gambling as an index of character in nineteenth-century Russia and traces its role in the fate of the gentry over the course of the century.

During the reigns of Alexander I and Nicholas I, Ian Helfant argues, gambling became an essential proving-ground and symbolic locus for noble identity in Russia--a way for the nobility to assert its values (fearlessness, disdain for money, implacable self-possession, deification of whim and will, and stylish performance) against nineteenth-century economics and bourgeois sentimentality. In <i>The High Stakes of Identity</i> Helfant's twin concerns are to analyze the structural components of the myth of the noble "beau joueur" and to show how gambling performances in society and in literature reciprocally reinforced, complicated, and eventually disintegrated its mystique.

Using a broad variety of sources--memoiristic, epistolary, journalistic, legal, fictional, theatrical--Helfant reconstructs both the prevalence and the particular codes of gambling's cultural system in the first few decades of the nineteenth century. These codes allow him to interpret the iconoclastic performances of truly legendary gamblers and to assess the importance and purpose of gambling in works ranging from Pushkin's "Queen of Spades" to Lermontov's "Masquerade." Throughout, Helfant gives voice to the rich variety of discourses, from tsarist laws to moralistic tracts, that came to bear on the culture of gambling in the 1830s and eventually led to its displacement as the key marker of nobility.

front cover of A History of Russian Literary Theory and Criticism
A History of Russian Literary Theory and Criticism
The Soviet Age and Beyond
Evgeny Dobrenko
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013

This volume assembles the work of leading international scholars in a comprehensive history of Russian literary theory and criticism from 1917 to the post-Soviet age. By examining the dynamics of literary criticism and theory in three arenas—political, intellectual, and institutional—the authors capture the progression and structure of Russian literary criticism and its changing function and discourse.
      The chapters follow early movements such as formalism, the Bakhtin Circle, Proletklut, futurism, the fellow-travelers, and the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers. By the cultural revolution of 1928, literary criticism became a mechanism of Soviet policies, synchronous with official ideology. The chapters follow theory and criticism into the 1930s with examinations of the Union of Soviet Writers, semantic paleontology, and socialist realism under Stalin. A more “humanized” literary criticism appeared during the ravaging years of World War II, only to be supplanted by a return to the party line, Soviet heroism, and anti-Semitism in the late Stalinist period. During Khrushchev’s Thaw, there was a remarkable rise in liberal literature and criticism, that was later refuted in the nationalist movement of the “long” 1970s. The same decade saw, on the other hand, the rise to prominence of semiotics and structuralism. Postmodernism and a strong revival of academic literary studies have shared the stage since the start of the post-Soviet era.
      For the first time anywhere, this collection analyzes all of the important theorists and major critical movements during a tumultuous ideological period in Russian history, including developments in émigré literary theory and criticism.


front cover of A History of Russian Literature
A History of Russian Literature
From Its Beginnings to 1900
D.S. Mirsky
Northwestern University Press, 1999
Russian literature has always been inseparable from Russian history. D. S. Mirsky constantly keeps in mind the ever-colorful and ever-changing aspects of the one in discussing the other. Sound in judgment, luminescent, and exquisitely written, Mirsky's book is essential reading for anyone interested in one of the world's great literatures. A History of Russian Literature covers the beginning of Russian fiction, the Age of Classicism, the Age of Gogol, and the poets, journalists, novelists, and playwrights of the Age of Realism.

front cover of How Russia Learned to Write
How Russia Learned to Write
Literature and the Imperial Table of Ranks
Irina Reyfman
University of Wisconsin Press, 2021
In the eighteenth century, as modern forms of literature began to emerge in Russia, most of the writers producing it were members of the nobility. But their literary pursuits competed with strictly enforced obligations to imperial state service. Unique to Russia was the Table of Ranks, introduced by Emperor Peter the Great in 1722. Noblesse oblige was not just a lofty principle; aristocrats were expected to serve in the military, civil service, or the court, and their status among peers depended on advancement in ranks.
            Irina Reyfman illuminates the surprisingly diverse effects of the Table of Ranks on writers, their work, and literary culture in Russia. From Sumarokov and Derzhavin in the eighteenth century through Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, and poets serving in the military in the nineteenth, state service affected the self-images of writers and the themes of their creative output. Reyfman also notes its effects on Russia’s atypical course in the professionalization and social status of literary work.

front cover of How the Russians Read the French
How the Russians Read the French
Lermontov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy
Priscilla Meyer
University of Wisconsin Press
Russian writers of the nineteenth century were quite consciously creating a new national literary tradition. They saw themselves self-consciously through Western European eyes, at once admiring Europe and feeling inferior to it. This ambivalence was perhaps most keenly felt in relation to France, whose language and culture had shaped the world of the Russian aristocracy from the time of Catherine the Great.
            In How the Russians Read the French, Priscilla Meyer shows how Mikhail Lermontov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Lev Tolstoy engaged with French literature and culture to define their own positions as Russian writers with specifically Russian aesthetic and moral values. Rejecting French sensationalism and what they perceived as a lack of spirituality among Westerners, these three writers attempted to create moral and philosophical works of art that drew on sources deemed more acceptable to a Russian worldview, particularly Pushkin and the Gospels. Through close readings of A Hero of Our Time, Crime and Punishment, and Anna Karenina, Meyer argues that each of these great Russian authors takes the French tradition as a thesis, proposes his own antithesis, and creates in his novel a synthesis meant to foster a genuinely Russian national tradition, free from imitation of Western models.
Winner, University of Southern California Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies, American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies

front cover of How the Soviet Man Was Unmade
How the Soviet Man Was Unmade
Cultural Fantasy and Male Subjectivity under Stalin
Lilya Kaganovsky
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008
In Stalinist Russia, the idealized Soviet man projected an image of strength, virility, and unyielding drive in his desire to build a powerful socialist state. In monuments, posters, and other tools of cultural production, he became the demigod of Communist ideology. But beneath the surface of this fantasy, between the lines of texts and in film, lurked another figure: the wounded body of the heroic invalid, the second version of Stalin's New Man. 

In How the Soviet Man Was Unmade, Lilya Kaganovsky exposes the paradox behind the myth of the indestructible Stalinist-era male. In her analysis of social-realist literature and cinema, she examines the recurring theme of the mutilated male body, which appears with startling frequency. Kaganovsky views this representation as a thinly veiled statement about the emasculated male condition during the Stalinist era. Because the communist state was “full of heroes,” a man could only truly distinguish himself and attain hero status through bodily sacrifice-yet in his wounding, he was forever reminded that he would be limited in what he could achieve, and was expected to remain in a state of continued subservience to Stalin and the party.

Kaganovsky provides an insightful reevaluation of classic works of the period, including the novels of Nikolai Ostrovskii (How Steel Was Tempered) and Boris Polevoi (A Story About a Real Man), and films such as Ivan Pyr'ev's The Party Card, Eduard Pentslin's The Fighter Pilots, and Mikhail Chiaureli's The Fall of Berlin, among others. The symbolism of wounding and dismemberment in these works acts as a fissure in the facade of Stalinist cultural production through which we can view the consequences of historic and political trauma.

front cover of The Imperial Sublime
The Imperial Sublime
A Russian Poetics of Empire
Harsha Ram
University of Wisconsin Press, 2003
The Imperial Sublime examines the rise of the Russian empire as a literary theme simultaneous with the evolution of Russian poetry between the 1730s and 1840—the century during which poets defined the main questions facing Russian literature and society. Harsha Ram shows how imperial ideology became implicated in an unexpectedly wide range of issues, from formal problems of genre, style, and lyric voice to the vexed relationship between the poet and the ruling monarch.

front cover of In Search of the True Russia
In Search of the True Russia
The Provinces in Contemporary Nationalist Discourse
Lyudmila Parts
University of Wisconsin Press, 2020
Russia's provinces have long held a prominent place in the nation's cultural imagination. Lyudmila Parts looks at the contested place of the provinces in twenty-first-century Russian literature and popular culture, addressing notions of nationalism, authenticity, Orientalism, Occidentalism, and postimperial identity.

Surveying a largely unexplored body of Russian journalism, literature, and film from the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Parts finds that the harshest portrayals of the provinces arise within "high" culture. Popular culture, however, has increasingly turned from the newly prosperous, multiethnic, and westernized Moscow to celebrate the hinterlands as repositories of national traditions and moral strength. This change, she argues, has directed debate about Russia's identity away from its loss of imperial might and global prestige and toward a hermetic national identity based on the opposition of "us vs. us" rather than "us vs. them." She offers an intriguing analysis of the contemporary debate over what it means to be Russian and where "true" Russians reside.

front cover of The Institutions of Russian Modernism
The Institutions of Russian Modernism
Conceptualizing, Publishing, and Reading Symbolism
Jonathan Stone
Northwestern University Press, 2017

The Institutions of Russian Modernism illuminates the key role of Symbolism as the earliest form of modernism in Russia, emerging seemingly ex nihilo at the end of the nineteenth century. Combining book history, periodical studies, and reception theory, Jonathan Stone examines the poetry and theory of Russian Symbolism within the framework of the institutions that organized, published, and disseminated the works to Russian readers. Surveying a wealth of examples of books, journals, and almanacs, Stone traces how publishers of Symbolist works marketed the movement and fashioned a Symbolist reader. His persuasive argument that after its eclipse Symbolism's legacy remained embedded in the heart of Russian modernism will be of interest to scholars and general readers.


front cover of Isaac Babel and the Self-Invention of Odessan Modernism
Isaac Babel and the Self-Invention of Odessan Modernism
Rebecca Jane Stanton
Northwestern University Press, 2012

In what marks an exciting new critical direction, Rebecca Stanton contends that the city of Odessa—as a canonical literary image and as a kaleidoscopic cultural milieu—shaped the narrative strategies developed by Isaac Babel and his contemporaries of the Revolutionary generation. Modeling themselves on the tricksters and rogues of Odessa lore, Babel and his fellow Odessans Val­entin Kataev and Yury Olesha manipulated their literary personae through complex, playful, and often subversive negotiations of the boundary between autobiography and fiction. In so doing, they cannily took up a place prepared for them in the Russian canon and fostered modes of storytelling that both reflected and resisted the aesthetics of Socialist Realism. Stanton concludes with a rereading of Babel’s “autobiographical” stories and examines their leg­acy in post-Thaw works by Kataev, Olesha, and Konstantin Paustovsky.


front cover of Jews and Ukrainians in Russia's Literary Borderlands
Jews and Ukrainians in Russia's Literary Borderlands
From the Shtetl Fair to the Petersburg Bookshop
Amelia M. Glaser
Northwestern University Press, 2012

Studies of Eastern European literature have largely confined themselves to a single language, culture, or nationality. In this highly original book, Glaser shows how writers working in Russian, Ukrainian, and Yiddish during much of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century were in intense conversation with one another. The marketplace was both the literal locale at which members of these different societies and cultures interacted with one another and a rich subject for representation in their art. It is commonplace to note the influence of Gogol on Russian literature, but Glaser shows him to have been a profound influence on Ukrainian and Yiddish literature as well. And she shows how Gogol must be understood not only within the context of his adopted city of St. Petersburg but also that of his native Ukraine. As Ukrainian and Yiddish literatures developed over this period, they were shaped by their geographical and cultural position on the margins of the Russian Empire. As distinctive as these writers may seem from one another, they are further illuminated by an appreciation of their common relationship to Russia. Glaser’s book paints a far more complicated portrait than scholars have traditionally allowed of Jewish (particularly Yiddish) literature in the context of Eastern European and Russian culture.


front cover of Just Assassins
Just Assassins
The Culture of Terrorism in Russia
Edited and with an introduction by Anthony Anemone
Northwestern University Press, 2010

Just Assassins is an engrossing collection of fourteen original essays that illuminate terrorism as it has occurred in Russian culture past and present. The broad range of writers and scholars have contributed work that examines Russian literature, film, and theater; historical narrative; and even amateur memoir, songs, and poetry posted on the Internet. Along with editor Anthony Anemone’s introduction, these essays chart the evolution of modern political terrorism in Russia, from the Decembrist uprising to the horrific school siege in Beslan in 2004.

As terrorism and the fear of terrorism continues to animate, shape, and deform public policy and international relations across the globe, Just Assassins brings into focus how Russia’s cultural engagement with its legacy of terrorism offers instructive lessons and insights for anyone concerned about political terror.


front cover of Legacies of the Stone Guest
Legacies of the Stone Guest
The Don Juan Legend in Russian Literature
Alexander Burry
University of Wisconsin Press, 2023

The story of Don Juan first appeared in writing in seventeenth-century Spain, reaching Russia about a century later. Its real impact, however, was delayed until Russia’s most famous poet, Alexander Pushkin, put his own, unique, and uniquely inspirational, spin on the tale. Published in 1830, TheStone Guest is now recognized, with other Pushkin masterpieces, as part of the Russian literary canon. Alexander Burry traces the influence of Pushkin’s brilliant innovations to the legend, which he shows have proven repeatedly fruitful through successive ages of Russian literature, from the Realist to the Silver Age, Soviet, and contemporary periods. Burry shows that, rather than creating a simple retelling of an originally religious tale about a sinful, consummate seducer, Pushkin offered open-ended scenes, re-envisioned and complicated characters, and new motifs that became recursive and productive parts of Russian literature, in ways that even Pushkin himself could never have predicted.


front cover of The Letters and the Law
The Letters and the Law
Legal and Literary Culture in Late Imperial Russia
Anna Schur
Northwestern University Press, 2022
The Letters and the Law explores the fraught relationship between writers and lawyers in the four decades following Alexander II’s judicial reforms. Nineteenth-century Russian literature abounds in negative images of lawyers and the law. Literary scholars have typically interpreted these representations either as the common, cross‑cultural critique of lawyerly unscrupulousness and greed or as an expression of Russian hostility toward Western legalism, seen as antithetical to traditional Russian values. The Letters and the Law is the first book to frame the conflict in terms of the two professions’ competition for cultural authority.
Anna Schur combines historical research and literary analysis to argue that the first generations of Russian trial lawyers shaped their professional identity with an eye to the celebrated figure of the writer and that they considered their own activities to be a form of verbal art. A fuller understanding of writers’ antipathy to the law, Schur contends, must take into account this overlooked cultural backdrop. Laced with the better‑known critique of the lawyer’s legalistic proclivities and lack of moral principle are the writer’s reactions to a whole network of explicit and implicit claims of similarity between the two professions’ goals, methods, and missions that were central to the lawyer’s professional ideal. Viewed in this light, writers’ critiques of the law and lawyers emerge as a concerted effort at protecting literature’s exclusive cultural status in the context of modernization and the rapidly expanding public sphere.
The study draws upon a mix of well-known and rarely studied nineteenth-century authors and texts—with particular attention paid to Fyodor Dostoevsky and Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin—and on a wide range of nonliterary sources, including courtroom speeches, guides to forensic oratory, legal treatises, and specialized press.

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Literary Structure, Evolution, and Value
Russian Formalism and Czech Structuralism Reconsidered
Jurij Striedter
Harvard University Press, 1989

Jurij Striedter provides a dynamic introduction to and critique of Russian Formalism and Czech Structuralism. He makes clear the pathbreaking contribution of these European schools to modern literary theory and criticism, placing them in their contemporary contexts and at the same time relating them to ongoing debates in America.

Striedter gives an authoritative account of the development of Russian Formalism from its birth around 1915 through its forced end in the late 1920s, focusing on the contributions of Roman Jakobson, Mikhail Bakhtin, and others to the theory and analysis of literary history, literary genres and narrative prose. He compares the concepts of the literary work, literature as system, and literary evolution in both Russian Formalism and Czech Structuralism to show how these early formalistic approaches led to an elaborated structuralist and semiotic concept of literature as a historically changing system correlated to society and cultural change. He sets forth the work of Jan Mukarovsky and Felix Vodicka, whose Czech Structuralist theory of literary evolution and literary reception (or reader response) anticipated much recent theorizing.

Finally, Striedter brings these ideas into play by showing how they can contribute to the debate of the last few years in North America and Europe about the key issue of literary evaluation. This book and the theories it discusses challenge our contemporary understanding of literature, its history, and its functions in society and human life.


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The Man with the Black Coat
Russia's Literature of the Absurd
Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky
Northwestern University Press, 1997

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The Russian Tradition from Pushkin to Chekhov
Michael C. Finke
Duke University Press, 1995
Readers have been schooled to see nineteenth-century Russian literature as the summit of social and psychological realism. But in the work of writers from Pushkin to Chekhov, Michael C. Finke discloses a pervasive self-referentiality, a running commentary on the literary conventions these texts seem so wholly to embody. Metapoesis examines how—and more importantly, why—a series of major Russian authors spanning the nineteenth century inscribed commentary on their own poetics into their works of drama, narrative poetry, and fiction. As he explores the process of metapoesis in these works, Finke reveals its communicative function in its time and its interpretive value in our own.
Jakobsonian poetics provides the framework for this approach, though Finke also draws freely upon a number of contemporary literary theorists. After elucidating the meaning of metapoesis in works by Pushkin, Gogol, and Chernyshevsky, he reveals its covert functioning in such masterpieces of realism as Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and Chekhov’s "The Steppe." The result is a new interpretation and deeper understanding of these particular works, which in turn reorient our understanding of linguistic and literary "codes" and of the Russian literary tradition itself.
Of special interest to scholars of Russian literature, Metapoesis will also appeal to a broad range of readers and students of comparative literature, literary theory, and poetics.

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Modernism and Revolution
Russian Literature in Transition
Victor Erlich
Harvard University Press, 1994

The period before 1917 was a brilliant one for Russian literature, marked by the innovations and experimentation of modernism. With the Bolshevik seizure of power, a parallel process of drastic social innovation and experimentation began. How did revolution in the arts and revolution in society and politics relate to one another? Victor Erlich, an eminent authority on modern Slavic culture, takes up this question in Modernism and Revolution, a masterful appraisal of Russian literature during its most turbulent years.

Probing the salient literary responses to the upheaval that changed the face of Russia, Erlich offers a new perspective on this period of artistic and political ferment. He begins by revisiting the highlights of early twentieth-century Russian poetry—including the works of such masters as Akhmatova, Mandelstam, and Pasternak—and goes on to examine the major prose writers of the first post-revolutionary decade. In an inquiry that ranges over poetry, criticism, and artistic prose, Erlich explores the work of, among others, Symbolists Bely, Blok, and Ivanov, Futurists Khlebnikov and Mayakovsky, Formalists Jakobson and Shklovsky, the novelists Pilnyak and Zamyatin, the short-story master Babel, and the humorist Zoshchenko. He delineates a complex and ambiguous relationship between Russian literary modernism and the emerging Soviet state.

Here, following the artistic experimentation and cultural diversity begun early in the century, we witness a trend toward regimentation and conformity as the literary avant garde's modus vivendi with the new regime becomes increasingly precarious. As this regime recedes into history, along with the passions and prejudices it aroused, the accomplishments and failures of writers caught up in its early revolutionary fervor can at last be seen for what they were. From a perspective formed over a lifetime of study of Russian literature, Victor Erlich helps us look clearly, judiciously, and deeply into this long obscured part of the literary past.


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The Modernist Masquerade
Stylizing Life, Literature, and Costumes in Russia
Colleen McQuillen
University of Wisconsin Press, 2013
Masked and costume balls thrived in Russia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries during a period of rich literary and theatrical experimentation. The first study of its kind, The Modernist Masquerade examines the cultural history of masquerades in Russia and their representations in influential literary works.
            The masquerade's widespread appearance as a literary motif in works by such writers as Anna Akhmatova, Leonid Andreev, Andrei Bely, Aleksandr Blok, and Fyodor Sologub mirrored its popularity as a leisure-time activity and illuminated its integral role in the Russian modernist creative consciousness. Colleen McQuillen charts how the political, cultural, and personal significance of lavish costumes and other forms of self-stylizing evolved in Russia over time. She shows how their representations in literature engaged in dialog with the diverse aesthetic trends of Decadence, Symbolism, and Futurism and with the era's artistic philosophies.

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Nabokov's Canon
From "Onegin" to "Ada"
Marijeta Bozovic
Northwestern University Press, 2016
Nabokov's translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (1964) and its accompanying Commentary, along with Ada, or Ardor (1969), his densely allusive late English language novel, have appeared nearly inscrutable to many interpreters of his work. If not outright failures, they are often considered relatively unsuccessful curiosities. In Bozovic's insightful study, these key texts reveal Nabokov's ambitions to reimagine a canon of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Western masterpieces with Russian literature as a central, rather than marginal, strain. Nabokov's scholarly work, translations, and lectures on literature bear resemblance to New Critical canon reformations; however, Nabokov's canon is pointedly translingual and transnational and serves to legitimize his own literary practice. The new angles and theoretical framework offered by Nabokov's Canon help us to understand why Nabokov's provocative monuments remain powerful source texts for several generations of diverse international writers, as well as richly productive material for visual, cinematic, musical, and other artistic adaptations.

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No Good without Reward
Selected Writings: A Bilingual Edition
Liubov Krichevskaya
Iter Press, 2011
A female contemporary of Alexander Pushkin, Liubov Krichevskaya makes her Anglophone debut in an excellent translation of her fiction, drama, and poetry, which deftly capture women’s estate in the early nineteenth century. Krichevskaya intriguingly combines Sentimentalist preoccupations—sensibility, virtue, and men’s moral reformation through confrontation with exemplary women’s passive piety—with the uncontrollable passions and volatile hero popularized by the Byronic strain of Romanticism. Her gynocentric texts poignantly convey the stringent limitations imposed upon women’s agency by a society that paradoxically credited them with the seemingly limitless capacity to exert a civilizing influence as icons of probity. Readers acquainted with Rousseau, Richardson, and Goethe will discover familiar feminized turf, but cultivated in a Russian vein.
—Helena Goscilo
Chair and Professor of Slavic, The Ohio State University

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An Anthology of Russian Absurdism
Eugene Ostashevsky
Northwestern University Press, 2006
OBERIU is an anthology of short works by three leading Russian absurdists: Alexander Vvedensky, Daniil Kharms, and Nikolai Zabolotsky. Between 1927 and 1930, the three made up the core of an avant-garde literary group called OBERIU (from an acronym standing for The Union of Real Art). It was a movement so artfully anarchic, and so quickly suppressed, that readers only began to discover its strange and singular brilliance three decades after it was extinguished—and then only in samizdat and émigré publications.

Some called it the last of the Russian avant-garde, and others called it the first (and last) instance of Absurdism in Russia. Though difficulty to pigeon-hole, OBERIU and the pleasures of its poetry and prose are, with this volume, at long last fully open to English-speaking readers. Skillfully translated to preserve the weird charm of the originals, these poems and prose pieces display all the hilarity and tragedy, the illogical action and puppetlike violence and eroticism, and the hallucinatory intensity that brought down the wrath of the Soviet censors. Today they offer an uncanny reflection of the distorted reality they reject.

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Optical Play
Glass, Vision, and Spectacle in Russian Culture
Julia Bekman Chadaga
Northwestern University Press, 2014

Longlist finalist, 2015 Historia Nova Prize for Best Book on Russian Intellectual and Cultural History 

Julia Bekman Chadaga’s ambitious study posits that glass—in its uses as a material and as captured in culture—is a key to understanding the evolution of Russian identity from the eighteenth century onward. From the contemporary perspective, it is easy to overlook how glass has profoundly transformed vision. Chadaga shows the far-reaching effects of this phenomenon.

Her book examines the similarities between glass and language, the ideological uses of glass, and the material’s associations with modernity, while illuminating the work of Lomonosov, Dostoevsky, Zamyatin, and Eisenstein, among others. In particular, Chadaga explores the prominent role of glass in the discourse around Russia’s contentious relationship with the West—by turns admiring and antagonistic—as the nation crafted a vision for its own future. Chadaga returns throughout to the spectacular aspect of glass and shows how both the tendentious capacity and the playfulness of this material have shaped Russian culture.


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The Origins of Russian Literary Theory
Folklore, Philology, Form
Jessica Merrill
Northwestern University Press, 2022
Russian Formalism is widely considered the foundation of modern literary theory. This book reevaluates the movement in light of the current commitment to rethink the concept of literary form in cultural-historical terms. Jessica Merrill provides a novel reconstruction of the intellectual historical context that enabled the emergence of Formalism in the 1910s. Formalists adopted a mode of thought Merrill calls the philological paradigm, a framework for thinking about language, literature, and folklore that lumped them together as verbal tradition. For those who thought in these terms, verbal tradition was understood to be inseparable from cultural history. Merrill situates early literary theories within this paradigm to reveal abandoned paths in the history of the discipline—ideas that were discounted by the structuralist and post-structuralist accounts that would emerge after World War II.

The Origins of Russian Literary Theory reconstructs lost Formalist theories of authorship, of the psychology of narrative structure, and of the social spread of poetic innovations. According to these theories, literary form is always a product of human psychology and cultural history. By recontextualizing Russian Formalism within this philological paradigm, the book highlights the aspects of Formalism’s legacy that speak to the priorities of twenty-first-century literary studies.

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The Poetics of Impudence and Intimacy in the Age of Pushkin
Joe Peschio
University of Wisconsin Press, 2012
In early nineteenth-century Russia, members of jocular literary societies gathered to recite works written in the lightest of genres: the friendly verse epistle, the burlesque, the epigram, the comic narrative poem, the prose parody. In a period marked by the Decembrist Uprising and heightened state scrutiny into private life, these activities were hardly considered frivolous; such works and the domestic, insular spaces within which they were created could be seen by the Russian state as rebellious, at times even treasonous.
    Joe Peschio offers the first comprehensive history of a set of associated behaviors known in Russian as “shalosti,” a word which at the time could refer to provocative behaviors like practical joking, insubordination, ritual humiliation, or vandalism, among other things, but also to literary manifestations of these behaviors such as the use of obscenities in poems, impenetrably obscure allusions, and all manner of literary inside jokes. One of the period’s most fashionable literary and social poses became this complex of behaviors taken together. Peschio explains the importance of literary shalosti as a form of challenge to the legitimacy of existing literary institutions and sometimes the Russian regime itself. Working with a wide variety of primary texts—from verse epistles to denunciations, etiquette manuals, and previously unknown archival materials—Peschio argues that the formal innovations fueled by such “prankish” types of literary behavior posed a greater threat to the watchful Russian government and the literary institutions it fostered than did ordinary civic verse or overtly polemical prose.

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Positive Hero in Russian Literature
Rufus W. Mathewson, Jr.
Northwestern University Press, 2000
This classic text brings a period of Russian literature to life and demonstrates how the battles over the positive hero reappeared with dramatic clarity in the dissident literary movement after Stalin's death. Mathewson argues that the true continuity between nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian prose was to be found in this persistent conflict between contrary views of the real nature and proper uses of literature. This new edition includes chapters on Belinsky, Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, and Sinyavsky.

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Poverty of the Imagination
Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature about the Po
David Herman
Northwestern University Press, 2001
The primal scene of all nineteenth-century western thought might involve an observer gazing at someone poor, most commonly on the streets of a great metropolis, and wondering what the spectacle meant in human, moral, political, and metaphysical terms. For Russia, most of whose people hovered near the poverty line throughout history, the scene is one of special significance, presenting a plethora of questions and possibilities for writers who wished to depict the spiritual and material reality of Russian life. How these writers responded, and what their portrayal of poverty reveals and articulates about core values of Russian culture, is the subject of this book, which offers a compelling look into the peculiar convergence in nineteenth-century Russian literature of ideas about the poor and about the processes of art.

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Pushkin on Literature
Tatiana Wolff
Northwestern University Press, 1998
Pushkin on Literature approaches Pushkin's literary accomplishment from a unique perspective: it focuses on Pushkin the critic, and on his passionate enthusiasm, volatile judgments, joy, frustration, and fascination with the literary world that surrounded him. This is the only English-language edition of the complete set of Pushkin's critical writing, both on his own work and on the wide range of European literature--Byron, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Milton--which he read and studied, and which so profoundly influenced his own writing.

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Pushkin, the Decembrists, and Civic Sentimentalism
Emily Wang
University of Wisconsin Press, 2023
In December 1825, a group of liberal aristocrats, officers, and intelligentsia mounted a coup against the tsarist government of Russia. Inspired partially by the democratic revolutions in the United States and France, the Decembrist movement was unsuccessful; however, it led Russia’s civil society to new avenues of aspiration and had a lasting impact on Russian culture and politics. Many writers and thinkers belonged to the conspiracy while others, including the poet Alexander Pushkin, were loosely or ambiguously affiliated. While the Decembrist movement and Pushkin’s involvement has been well covered by historians, Emily Wang takes a novel approach, examining the emotional and literary motivations behind the movement and the dramatic, failed coup. 

Through careful readings of the literature of Pushkin and others active in the northern branch of the Decembrist movement, such as Kondraty Ryleev, Wilhelm Küchelbecker, and Fyodor Glinka, Wang traces the development of “emotional communities” among the members and adjacent writers. This book illuminates what Wang terms “civic sentimentalism”: the belief that cultivating noble sentiments on an individual level was the key to liberal progress for Russian society, a core part of Decembrist ideology that constituted a key difference from their thought and Pushkin’s. The emotional program for Decembrist community members was, in other ways, a civic program for Russia as a whole, one that they strove to enact by any means necessary. 

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The Readers of Novyi Mir
Coming to Terms with the Stalinist Past
Denis Kozlov
Harvard University Press, 2013

In the wake of Stalin’s death in 1953, the Soviet Union entered a period of relative openness known as the Thaw. Soviet citizens took advantage of the new opportunities to meditate on the nation’s turbulent history, from the Bolshevik Revolution, to the Terror, to World War II. Perhaps the most influential of these conversations took place in and around Novyi mir (New World), the most respected literary journal in the country. In The Readers of Novyi Mir, Denis Kozlov shows how the dialogue between literature and readers during the Thaw transformed the intellectual life and political landscape of the Soviet Union.

Powerful texts by writers like Solzhenitsyn, Pasternak, and Ehrenburg led thousands of Novyi mir’s readers to reassess their lives, entrenched beliefs, and dearly held values, and to confront the USSR’s history of political violence and social upheaval. And the readers spoke back. Victims and perpetrators alike wrote letters to the journal, reexamining their own actions and bearing witness to the tragedies of the previous decades.

Kozlov’s insightful treatment of these confessions, found in Russian archives, and his careful reading of the major writings of the period force today’s readers to rethink common assumptions about how the Soviet people interpreted their country’s violent past. The letters reveal widespread awareness of the Terror and that literary discussion of its legacy was central to public life during the late Soviet decades. By tracing the intellectual journey of Novyi mir’s readers, Kozlov illuminates how minds change, even in a closed society.


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Red Virgin Soil
Soviet Literature in the 1920's
Robert A. Maguire
Northwestern University Press, 2000
First published in 1968, this classic is a richly detailed study of the eponymous journal that was the most significant Soviet literary journal of the 1920s. It is also a comprehensive survey of Soviet literary culture in a critical period when writers could still engage in public debate.

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Reframing Russian Modernism
Edited by Irina Shevelenko
University of Wisconsin Press, 2018
Presenting a multifaceted portrait of modernist culture in Russia, an array of distinguished scholars shows how artists and writers in the early twentieth century engaged with politics, science, and religion. At a time when many Russian social institutions looked to the past, modernist arts powerfully amplified a gamut of new ideas about individual and collective transformation.

Expanding upon prior studies that focus more specifically on literary manifestations of the movement, Reframing Russian Modernism features original research that ranges broadly, from political aesthetics to Darwinism to yoga. These unique complementary perspectives counter reductionism of any kind, integrating the study of Russian modernism into the larger body of humanistic scholarship devoted to modernity.

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Rewriting Capitalism
Literature and the Market in Late Tsarist Russia and the Kingdom of Poland
Beth Holmgren
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998
In this ground-breaking book, Beth Holmgren examines how—in turn-of-the-century Russia and its subject, the Kingdom of Poland—capitalism affected the elitist culture of literature, publishing, book markets, and readership. Rewriting Capitalism considers how both “serious” writers and producers of consumer culture coped with the drastic power shift from “serious” literature to market-driven literature.

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Rivers in Russian Literature
Margaret Ziolkowski
University of Delaware Press, 2011
Rivers in Russian Literature focuses on the Russian literary and folkloric treatment of five rivers—the Dnieper, Volga, Neva, Don, and Angara. Each chapter traces, within a geographical and historical context, the evolution of the literary representation of one river. Imagination may endow a river with aesthetic or spiritual qualities; ethnic, national, or racial associations; or commercial or agricultural symbolism of many kinds. Russian literary responses to these five rivers have much to tell us about the society that produced them as well as the rivers they treat.

Published by University of Delaware Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.

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Russian Literature Since the Revolution
Revised and Enlarged Edition
Edward J. Brown
Harvard University Press, 1982

Long recognized as the best and most comprehensive work on its subject, Brown’s fine book is now thoroughly revised and updated. It provides a comprehensive treatment of Russian literature, including underground and émigré writings, from 1917 to the early 1980s.

Every stage in the evolution of Russian literature since 1917, every major author, all the important literary organizations, groups, and movements, are sharply outlined, with a wealth of often unfamiliar detail and a notable economy of means. Critical essays on Mayakovsky, Zamyatin, Olesha, Pasternak, Brodsky, Solzhenitsyn, Rasputin, Erofeev, and many others offer sophisticated formal and thematic analyses of a very large array of literary masterpieces.

The book examines and makes intelligible the persistent conflict between the writer and the state, between the literary artist’s urge for untrammeled self-expression and the pervasive control of intellectual activity exercised by the Soviet government. Chapters on “The Levers of Control under Stalin,” “The First Two Thaws,” “Into the Underground,” and “Solzhenitsyn and the Epic of the Camps” reveal the conditions under which Russian literature was produced in various periods and investigate the forces that drove an important segment of the literature into clandestine publication or into exile. “Exiles, Early and Late” deals with some of the leading figures in émigré literature and examines the condition of exile as an influence on literary creation. “The Surface Channel” describes and analyzes a number of significant works published aboveground in the Soviet Union during the sixties and seventies. Brown abandons the old distinction between Soviet and émigré literature, treating all Russian writing as part of a single stream, divided since 1917 into two currents not totally separate but subtly interrelated.


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Russia’s Capitalist Realism
Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov
Vadim Shneyder
Northwestern University Press, 2021

Russia’s Capitalist Realism examines how the literary tradition that produced the great works of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Anton Chekhov responded to the dangers and possibilities posed by Russia’s industrial revolution. During Russia’s first tumultuous transition to capitalism, social problems became issues of literary form for writers trying to make sense of economic change. The new environments created by industry, such as giant factories and mills, demanded some kind of response from writers but defied all existing forms of language.

This book recovers the rich and lively public discourse of this volatile historical period, which Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov transformed into some of the world’s greatest works of literature. Russia’s Capitalist Realism will appeal to readers interested in nineteenth‑century Russian literature and history, the relationship between capitalism and literary form, and theories of the novel.


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Russia's Legal Fictions
Harriet Murav
University of Michigan Press, 1998
Legal scholars and literary critics have shown the significance of storytelling, not only as part of the courtroom procedure, but as part of the very foundation of law. Russia's Legal Fictions examines the relationship between law, narrative and authority in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russia.
The conflict between the Russian writer and the law is a well-known feature of Russian literary life in the past two centuries. With one exception, the authors discussed in this book--Sukhovo-Kobylin, Akhsharumov, Suvorin, and Dostoevsky in the nineteenth century and Solzhenitsyn and Siniavskii in the twentieth--were all put on trial. In Russia's Legal Fictions, Harriet Murav starts with the authors' own writings about their experience with law and explores the history of these Russian literary trials, including censorship, libel cases, and one case of murder, in their specific historical context, showing how particular aspects of the culture of the time relate to the case.
The book explores the specifically Russian literary and political conditions in which writers claim the authority not only as the authors of fiction but as lawgivers in the realm of the real, and in which the government turns to the realm of the literary to exercise its power. The author uses specific aspects of Russian culture, history and literature to consider broader theoretical questions about the relationship between law, narrative, and authority. Murav offers a history of the reception of the jury trial and the development of a professional bar in late Imperial Russia as well as an exploration of theories of criminality, sexuality, punishment, and rehabilitation in Imperial and Soviet Russia.
This book will be of interest to scholars of law and literature and Russian law, history and culture.
Harriet Murav is Associate Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature, University of California at Davis.

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Russia's Rome
Imperial Visions, Messianic Dreams, 1890–1940
Judith E. Kalb
University of Wisconsin Press
A wide-ranging study of empire, religious prophecy, and nationalism in literature, Russia’s Rome: Imperial Visions, Messianic Dreams, 1890–1940 provides the first examination of Russia’s self-identification with Rome during a period that encompassed the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 and the rise of the Soviet state. Analyzing Rome-related texts by six writers—Dmitrii Merezhkovskii, Valerii Briusov, Aleksandr Blok, Viacheslav Ivanov, Mikhail Kuzmin, and Mikhail Bulgakov—Judith E. Kalb argues that the myth of Russia as the “Third Rome” was resurrected to create a Rome-based discourse of Russian national identity that endured even as the empire of the tsars declined and fell and a new state replaced it.
            Russia generally finds itself beyond the purview of studies concerned with the ongoing potency of the classical world in modern society. Slavists, for their part, have only recently begun to note the influence of classical civilization not only during Russia’s neo-classical eighteenth century but also during its modernist period. With its interdisciplinary scope, Russia’s Rome fills a gap in both Russian studies and scholarship on the classical tradition, providing valuable material for scholars of Russian culture and history, classicists, and readers interested in the classical heritage.

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Sergei Dovlatov and His Narrative Masks
Jekaterina Young
Northwestern University Press, 2009

This book provides an introduction to Sergei Dovlatov (1941–1990) that is closely attentive to the details of his life and work, their place in the history of Soviet society and literature, and of émigré culture during this turbulent period. A journalist, newspaper editor, and prose writer, Dovlatov is most highly regarded for his short stories, which draw heavily on his experiences in Russia before 1979, when he was forced out of the country. During compulsory military service, before becoming a journalist, he worked briefly as a prison camp guard—an experience that gave him a unique perspective on the operations of the Soviet state. After moving to New York, Dovlatov published works (in the New Yorker and elsewhere) that earned him considerable renown in America and back in Russia. Young’s book presents a valuable critical overview of the prose of a late twentieth-century master within the context of the prevailing Russian and larger literary culture.


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Slavic Excursions
Essays on Russian and Polish Literature
Donald Davie
University of Chicago Press, 1991

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Sovereign Fictions
Poetics and Politics in the Age of Russian Realism
Ilya Kliger
University of Chicago Press, 2024
An exploration of Russian realist fiction reveals a preoccupation with the absolutist state.

The nineteenth-century novel is generally assumed to owe its basic social imaginaries to the ideologies, institutions, and practices of modern civil society. In Sovereign Fictions, Ilya Kliger asks what happens to the novel when its fundamental sociohistorical orientation is, as in the case of Russian realism, toward the state. Kliger explores Russian realism’s distinctive construals of sociality through a broad range of texts from the 1830s to the 1870s, including major works by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Pushkin, Lermontov, Goncharov, and Turgenev, and several lesser-known but influential books of the period, including Alexander Druzhinin’s Polinka Saks (1847), Aleksei Pisemsky’s One Thousand Souls (1858), and Vasily Sleptsov’s Hard Times (1865). Challenging much current scholarly consensus about the social dynamics of nineteenth-century realist fiction, Sovereign Fictions offers an important intervention in socially inflected theories of the novel and in current thinking on representations of power and historical poetics.

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Times of Trouble
Violence in Russian Literature and Culture
Edited by Marcus C. Levitt and Tatyana Novikov
University of Wisconsin Press, 2007

From the country that has added to our vocabulary such colorful terms as "purges," "pogroms," and "gulag," this collection investigates the conspicuous marks of violence in Russian history and culture. 
     Russians and non-Russians alike have long debated the reasons for this endemic violence. Some have cited Russia's huge size, unforgiving climate, and exposed geographical position as formative in its national character, making invasion easy and order difficult. Others have fixed the blame on cultural and religious traditions that spurred internecine violence or on despotic rulers or unfortunate episodes in the nation's history, such as the Mongol invasion, the rule of Ivan the Terrible, or the "Red Terror" of the revolution. Even in contemporary Russia, the specter of violence continues, from widespread mistreatment of women to racial antagonism, the product of a frustrated nationalism that manifests itself in such phenomena as the wars in Chechnya. 
     Times of Trouble is the first in English to explore the problem of violence in Russia. From a variety of perspectives, essays investigate Russian history as well as depictions of violence in the visual arts and in literature, including the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Isaac Babel, Mikhail Lermontov, and Nina Sadur. From the Mongol invasion to the present day, topics include the gulag, genocide, violence against women, anti-Semitism, and terrorism as a tool of revolution.


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Tolstoy on Screen
Edited by Lorna Fitzsimmons and Michael A. Denner
Northwestern University Press, 2015

Scholarship on screen adaptation has proliferated in recent years, but it has remained largely focused on English- and Romance-language authors. Tolstoy on Screen aims to correct this imbalance with a comprehensive examination of film and television adaptations of Tolstoy’s fiction. Spanning the silent era to the present day, these essays consider well-known as well as neglected works in light of contemporary adaptation and media theory. The book is organized to facilitate a comparative, cross-cultural understanding of the various practices employed in different eras and different countries to bring Tolstoy’s writing to the screen. International in scope and rigorous in analysis, the essays cast new light on Tolstoy’s work and media studies alike.


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Toxic Voices
The Villain from Early Soviet Literature to Socialist Realism
Eric Laursen
Northwestern University Press, 2013
Satire and the fantastic, vital literary genres in the 1920s, are often thought to have fallen victim to the official adoption of socialist realism. Eric Laursen contends that these subversive genres did not just vanish or move underground. Instead, key strategies of each survive to sustain the villain of socialist realism. Laursen argues that the judgment of satire and the hesitation associated with the fantastic produce a narrative obsession with controlling the villain’s influence. In identifying a crucial connection between the questioning, subversive literature of the 1920s and the socialist realists, Laursen produces an insightful revision of Soviet literary history.

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The Trace of Judaism
Dostoevsky, Babel, Mandelstam, Levinas
Val Vinokur
Northwestern University Press, 2009
Recipient, 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship

The defining quality of Russian literature, for most critics, is its ethical seriousness expressed through formal originality. The Trace of Judaism addresses this characteristic through the thought of the Lithuanian-born Franco-Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. Steeped in the Russian classics from an early age, Levinas drew significantly from Dostoevsky in his ethical thought. One can profitably read Russian literature through Levinas, and vice versa.
Vinokur links new readings of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Isaac Babel, and Osip Mandelstam to the work of Levinas, to ask: How does Judaism haunt Russian literature? In what ways is Levinas' ethics as "Russian" as it is arguably "Jewish"? And more broadly, how do ethics and aesthetics inflect each other? Vinokur considers how the encounter with the other invokes responsibilities ethical and aesthetic, and shows how the volatile relationship between ethics and aesthetics--much like the connection between the Russian and Jewish traditions--may be inextricably symbiotic. In an ambitious work that illuminates the writings of all of these authors, Vinokur pursues the implications of this reading for our understanding of the function of literature--its unique status as a sphere in which an ethical vision such as that of Levinas becomes comprehensible.

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Translation’s Forgotten History
Russian Literature, Japanese Mediation, and the Formation of Modern Korean Literature
Heekyoung Cho
Harvard University Press, 2016
Translation’s Forgotten History investigates the meanings and functions that translation generated for modern national literatures during their formative period and reconsiders literature as part of a dynamic translational process of negotiating foreign values. By examining the triadic literary and cultural relations among Russia, Japan, and colonial Korea and revealing a shared sensibility and literary experience in East Asia (which referred to Russia as a significant other in the formation of its own modern literatures), this book highlights translation as a radical and ineradicable part—not merely a catalyst or complement—of the formation of modern national literature. Translation’s Forgotten History thus rethinks the way modern literature developed in Korea and East Asia. While national canons are founded on amnesia regarding their process of formation, framing literature from the beginning as a process rather than an entity allows a more complex and accurate understanding of national literature formation in East Asia and may also provide a model for world literature today.

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The Translator in the Text
On Reading Russian Literature in English
Rachel May
Northwestern University Press, 1994
What does it mean to read one nation's literature in another language? The considerable popularity of Russian literature in the English-speaking world rests almost entirely upon translations. In The Translator and the Text, Rachel May analyzes Russian literature in English translation, seeing it less as a substitute for the original works than as a subset of English literature, with its own cultural, stylistic, and narrative traditions.

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Transpatial Modernity
Chinese Cultural Encounters with Russia via Japan (1880–1930)
Xiaolu Ma
Harvard University Press, 2024
Transpatial Modernity offers the first in-depth account of the triangular relationship among Chinese, Japanese, and Russian literature and culture in the modern era. Drawing on primary sources in all three languages—among others—Xiaolu Ma reveals how Chinese writers translated and appropriated Russian cultural tropes through the intermediary of Japanese writing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. To trace the global journey of these literatures and ideas, Ma maps four case studies involving leading cultural figures including Leo Tolstoy, Futabatei Shimei, and Lu Xun. Together, they demonstrate the central role of relay transculturation—cultural exchange among at least three cultures, one of which serves primarily as an intermediary—as the key to understanding East Asian modernity. Not limited to a dyadic relationship between source and target culture, Transpatial Modernity explores the implications of cultural brokerage within complex transculturation process, thus establishing the value of a new transpatial framework for understanding literary and cultural exchange in local, regional, and global contexts.

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Unattainable Bride Russia
Gendering Nation, State, and Intelligentsia in Russian Intellectual Culture
Ellen Rutten
Northwestern University Press, 2010

Throughout the twentieth century and continuing today, personifications of Russia as a bride occur in a wide range of Russian texts and visual representations, from literature and political and philosophical treatises to cartoons and tattoos. Invariably, this metaphor functions in the context of a political gender allegory, which represents the relationships between Russia, the intelligentsia, and the Russian state, as a competition of two male suitors for the former’s love.

In Unattainable Bride Russia, Ellen Rutten focuses on the metaphorical role the intelligentsia plays as Russia’s rejected or ineffectual suitor. Rutten finds that this metaphor, which she covers from its prehistory in folklore to present-day pop culture references to Vladimir Putin, is still powerful, but has generated scarce scholarly consideration. Unattainable Bride Russia locates the cultural thread and places the political metaphor in a broad contemporary and social context, thus paying it the attention to which it is entitled as one of Russia’s modern cultural myths.


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The Unlikely Futurist
Pushkin and the Invention of Originality in Russian Modernism
James Rann
University of Wisconsin Press, 2020
In the early twentieth century, a group of writers banded together in Moscow to create purely original modes of expression. These avant-garde artists, known as the Futurists, distinguished themselves by mastering the art of the scandal and making shocking denunciations of beloved icons. With publications such as "A Slap in the Face of Public Taste," they suggested that Aleksandr Pushkin, the founder of Russian literature, be tossed off the side of their "steamship of modernity."
Through systematic and detailed readings of Futurist texts, James Rann offers the first book-length study of the tensions between the outspoken literary group and the great national poet. He observes how those in the movement engaged with and invented a new Pushkin, who by turns became a founding father to rebel against, a source of inspiration to draw from, a prophet foreseeing the future, and a monument to revive.
Rann's analysis contributes to the understanding of both the Futurists and Pushkin's complex legacy. The Unlikely Futurist will appeal broadly to scholars of Slavic studies, especially those interested in literature and modernism.

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Up from Bondage
The Literatures of Russian and African American Soul
Dale E. Peterson
Duke University Press, 2000
During the nineteenth century, literate Russians and educated American blacks encountered a dominant Western narrative of world civilization that seemed to ignore the histories of Slavs and African Americans. In response, generations of Russian and black American intellectuals have asserted eloquent counterclaims for the cultural significance of a collective national “soul” veiled from prejudiced Western eyes. Up from Bondage is the first study to parallel the evolution of Russian and African American cultural nationalism in literary works and philosophical writings.
Illuminating a remarkably widespread cross-pollination between the two cultural and intellectual traditions, Dale E. Peterson frames much of his argument around W. E. B. DuBois’s concept of “double-consciousness,” wherein members of an oppressed section of society view themselves simultaneously through their own self-awareness and through the internalized standards of the dominant culture. He shows how the writings of Dostoevsky, Hurston, Chesnutt, Turgenev, Ellison, Wright, Gorky, and Naylor—texts that enacted and described this sense of double awareness—were used both to perform and to contest the established genres of Western literacy. Woven through Peterson’s textual analyses is his consideration of cultural hybridism and its effects: The writers he examines find multiple ways to testify to and challenge the symptoms of postcolonial trauma. After discussing the strong and significant affinity expressed by contemporary African American cultural theorists for the dialogic thought of Russian linguist Mikhail Bakhtin, Peterson argues that a fuller appreciation of the historic connection between the two cultures will enrich the complicated meanings of being black or Russian in a world that has traditionally avoided acknowledging pluralistic standards of civilization and cultural excellence.
This investigation of comparable moments in the development of Russian and African American ethnic self-consciousness will be valuable to students and scholars of comparative literature, philosophy, cultural theory, ethnicity, linguistics, and postcolonialism, in addition to Slavic and African American studies.

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Vasily Zhukovsky's Romanticism and the Emotional History of Russia
Ilya Vinitsky
Northwestern University Press, 2015

Ilya Vinitsky's Vasily Zhukovsky's Romanticism and the Emotional History of Russia is the first major study in English of Vasily Zhukovsky (1783–1852)—a poet, transla­tor of German romantic verse, and, crucially, mentor of Pushkin. It focuses overdue attention to an important figure in Russian literary and cultural history.

Vinitsky’s "psychological biography" argues that Zhukovsky very consciously set out to create for himself an emotional life that reflected his unique brand of romanticism, different from what we associate with Pushkin or poets such as Byron or Wordsworth. For Zhukovsky, ideal love was harmonious, built on a mystical foundation of spiritual kinship. Vinitsky shows how Zhukovksy played a pivotal role in the evolution of ideas central to Russia’s literary and cultural identity from the end of the eighteenth century into the decades following the Napoleonic Wars.


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Voiceless Vanguard
The Infantilist Aesthetic of the Russian Avant-Garde
Sara Pankenier Weld
Northwestern University Press, 2014
Winner, 2015 International Research Society in Children's Literature (IRSCL) Book Award 

Voiceless Vanguard: The Infantilist Aesthetic of the Russian Avant-Garde offers a new approach to the Russian avant-garde. It argues that central writers, artists, and theorists of the avant-garde self-consciously used an infantile aesthetic, as inspired by children’s art, language, perspective, and logic, to accomplish the artistic renewal they were seeking in literature, theory, and art. It treats the influence of children’s drawings on the Neo-Primitivist art of Mikhail Larionov, the role of children’s language in the Cubo-Futurist poetics of Aleksei Kruchenykh, the role of the naive perspective in the Formalist theory of Viktor Shklovsky, and the place of children’s logic and lore in Daniil Kharms’s absurdist writings for children and adults. This interdisciplinary and cultural study not only illuminates a rich period in Russian culture but also offers implications for modernism in a wider Western context, where similar principles apply.


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A Voltaire for Russia
A. P. Sumarokov's Journey from Poet-Critic to Russian Philosophe
Amanda Ewington
Northwestern University Press, 2010

In A Voltaire for Russia, Amanda Ewington examines the tumultuous literary career of Alexander Petrovich Sumarokov in relation to that of his slightly older French contemporary, Voltaire. Although largely unknown in the English-speaking world, Sumarokov was one of the founding fathers of modern Russian literature, renowned in his own time as a great playwright and prolific


A Voltaire for Russia polemicizes with long-accepted readings of Sumarokov as an imitator of French neoclassical poets, ultimately questioning the very notion of a Russian “classicism.” Ewington uncovers Sumarokov’s poignantly personal devotion to Voltaire as a new framework for understanding not only his works but also his literary allegiances and agenda, as he sets out to establish a Russian literature and cultivate a reading public.


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The Way of Kinship
An Anthology of Native Siberian Literature
Alexander Vaschenko
University of Minnesota Press, 2010
That these treasures are available to us as writing is a miracle. . . . The writings here, while altogether modern in one sense, are based upon a literature, albeit oral, that has existed for thousands of years. They are the reflections of people who have lived long on the earth, on their own terms, in harmony with the powers of nature. They are invaluable to us who have so much to learn from them. These stories, poems, songs give us a way, a sacred way, into a world that we ought to know for its own sake. It is our own world, after all. —N. Scott Momaday, from the Foreword

The first anthology of Native Siberian literature in English, The Way of Kinship represents writers from regions extending from the Ob River in the west to the Chukotka peninsula, the easternmost point of the Siberian Russian Arctic. Drawn from seven distinct ethnic groups, this diverse body of work-prose fiction, poetry, drama, and creative nonfiction-chronicles ancient Siberian cultures and traditions threatened with extinction in the contemporary world.

Translated and edited by Alexander Vaschenko and Claude Clayton Smith, leading scholars in Native Siberian literature, The Way of Kinship is an essential collection that will introduce readers to new writers and new worlds.

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Wonder Confronts Certainty
Russian Writers on the Timeless Questions and Why Their Answers Matter
Gary Saul Morson
Harvard University Press, 2023

A noted literary scholar traverses the Russian canon, exploring how realists, idealists, and revolutionaries debated good and evil, moral responsibility, and freedom.

Since the age of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov, Russian literature has posed questions about good and evil, moral responsibility, and human freedom with a clarity and intensity found nowhere else. In this wide-ranging meditation, Gary Saul Morson delineates intellectual debates that have coursed through two centuries of Russian writing, as the greatest thinkers of the empire and then the Soviet Union enchanted readers with their idealism, philosophical insight, and revolutionary fervor.

Morson describes the Russian literary tradition as an argument between a radical intelligentsia that uncompromisingly followed ideology down the paths of revolution and violence, and writers who probed ever more deeply into the human condition. The debate concerned what Russians called “the accursed questions”: If there is no God, are good and evil merely human constructs? Should we look for life’s essence in ordinary or extreme conditions? Are individual minds best understood in terms of an overarching theory or, as Tolstoy thought, by tracing the “tiny alternations of consciousness”? Exploring apologia for bloodshed, Morson adapts Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the non-alibi—the idea that one cannot escape or displace responsibility for one’s actions. And, throughout, Morson isolates a characteristic theme of Russian culture: how the aspiration to relieve profound suffering can lead to either heartfelt empathy or bloodthirsty tyranny.

What emerges is a contest between unyielding dogmatism and open-minded dialogue, between heady certainty and a humble sense of wonder at the world’s elusive complexity—a thought-provoking journey into inescapable questions.


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Wonderlands of the Avant-Garde
Technology and the Arts in Russia of the 1920s
Julia Vaingurt
Northwestern University Press, 2013
Longlist finalist, 2015 Historia Nova Prize for Best Book on Russian Intellectual and Cultural History 

In postrevolutionary Russia, as the Soviet government pursued rapid industrialization, avant-garde artists declared their intent to serve the nascent state and to transform life in accordance with their aesthetic designs. Despite their utilitarian intentions, however, most avant-gardists rarely created works regarded as practical instruments of societal transformation. Exploring this paradox, Vaingurt claims that the artists’ fusion of technology and aesthetics prevented their creations from being fully conscripted into the arsenal of political hegemony. The purposes of avant-garde technologies, she contends, are contemplative rather than constructive. Looking at Meyerhold’s theater, Tatlin’s and Khlebnikov’s architectural designs, Mayakovsky’s writings, and other works from the period, Vaingurt offers an innovative reading of an exceptionally complex moment in the formation of Soviet culture. 

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The Writer in Petrograd and the House of Arts
Martha Weitzel Hickey
Northwestern University Press, 2009
Founded by Maksim Gorky and Kornei Chukovsky in 1919 and disbanded in 1922, the Petrograd House of Arts occupied a crucial moment in Russia's cultural history. By chronicling the rise and fall of this literary landmark, this book conveys in greater depth and detail than ever before a significant but little studied period in Soviet literature.
Poised between Russian culture's past and her Soviet future, between pre- and post-Revolutionary generations, this once lavish private home on the Nevsky Prospekt housed as many as fifty-six poets, novelists, critics, and artists at one time, during a period of great social and political turbulence. And as such, Hickey contends, the House of Arts served as a crucible for a literature in transition. Hickey shows how the House of Arts, though virtually ignored by Soviet-era cultural historians, played a critical role in shaping the lively literature of the next decade, a literature often straddling the border between fiction and non-fiction. Considering prose writers such as Yevgeny Zamyatin, Olga Forsh, the Serapion Brothers group, Viktor Shklovsky, Boris Eikhenbaum, as well as poets including Alexander Blok, Nikolay Gumilev, Anna Radlova, Osip Mandelstam, and Vladislav Khodasevich, she traces the comings and goings at the House of Arts: the meetings and readings and lectures and, most of all, the powerful influence of these interactions on those who briefly lived and worked there. In her work, the Petrograd House of Arts appears for the first time in all its complexity and importance, as a focal point for the social and cultural ferment of the day, and a turning point in the direction of Russian literature and criticism.

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Writing a Usable Past
Russian Literary Culture, 1917-1937
Angela Brintlinger
Northwestern University Press, 2008

In Writing a Usable Past, Brintlinger considers the interactions of post-Revolutionary Russian and emigre culture with the genre of biography in its various permutations, arguing that in the years after the Revolution, Russian writers looked to the great literary figures of the past to help them construct a post-Revolutionary present. In detailed looks at the biographical writing of Yuri Tynianov, Vladislav Khodasevich, and Mikhail Bulgakov, Brintlinger follows each author's successful biography/ies and their failed attempts at biographies of Alexander Pushkin on the centennial anniversary of his death. Brintlinger compares the Pushkin biographies to the other biographies examined, and in a concluding chapter she considers other, more successful commemorations of the great poet's death. She argues that popular commemorations--exhibits, concerts, special issues of journals--were a more fitting biography than the genre of the "usable past." For post-revolutionary cultural actors, including Tynianov, Khodasevich, and Bulgakov, Pushkin was a symbol rather than a model for constructing that usable past.


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Writing as Exorcism
The Personal Codes of Pushkin, Lermontov, and Gogol
Ilya Kutik
Northwestern University Press, 2005
"Sometimes it takes a poet to read a poet. In this inspired, idiosyncratic study, Ilya Kutik offers exemplary interpretations of three Russian writers, of the lessons of fatalism, and of the complexities of reading." —from the Introduction

A remarkable literary performance in its own right, this interpretive essay brings a highly original poetic sensibility to bear on the lives and works of three major Russian writers. It is Ilya Kutik's contention that many writers are tormented by secret fears and desires that only writing—in particular, the use of certain words and images—can exorcise. Making this biographical approach peculiarly his own—and susceptible to the nuances of comedy, tragedy, and critical equanimity—Kutik reads works of Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, and Nikolai Gogol, three Russian writers who were demonstrably subject to the whims, superstitions, and talismans that Kutik identifies. Exposing the conjunction of literary effort and private act in writings such as "The Queen of Spades," Dead Souls, and A Hero of Our Time, Kutik's work gives us a new way of understanding these masterpieces of Russian literature and their authors, and a new way of reading the mysteries of life and literature as mutually enriching.

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Written in Blood
Revolutionary Terrorism and Russian Literary Culture, 1861–1881
Lynn Ellen Patyk
University of Wisconsin Press, 2017
Written in Blood offers a fundamentally new interpretation of the emergence of modern terrorism, arguing that it formed in the Russian literary imagination well before any shot was fired or bomb exploded. In March 1881, Russia stunned the world when a small band of revolutionaries calling themselves "terrorists" assassinated the Tsar-Liberator, Alexander II. Horrified Russians blamed the influence of European political and social ideas, while shocked Europeans perceived something new and distinctly Russian in a strategy of political violence that became known the world over as "terrorism" or "the Russian method."

Lynn Ellen Patyk contends that the prototype for the terrorist was the Russian writer, whose seditious word was interpreted as an audacious deed—and a violent assault on autocratic authority. The interplay and interchangeability of word and deed, Patyk argues, laid the semiotic groundwork for the symbolic act of violence at the center of revolutionary terrorism. While demonstrating how literary culture fostered the ethos, pathos, and image of the revolutionary terrorist and terrorism, she spotlights Fyodor Dostoevsky and his "terrorism trilogy"—Crime and Punishment (1866), Demons (1870–73), and The Brothers Karamazov (1878–80)—as novels that uniquely illuminate terrorism's methods and trajectory. Deftly combining riveting historical narrative with penetrating literary analysis of major and minor works, Patyk's groundbreaking book reveals the power of the word to spawn deeds and the power of literature to usher new realities into the world.

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