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.
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.
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
ExcerptJohn 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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