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Wonderlands of the Avant-Garde

Technology and the Arts in Russia of the 1920s

Julia Vaingurt

Publication Year: 2013

Published by: Northwestern University Press

Series: Studies in Russian Literature and Theory


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-2

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Introduction - Imaginative and Instrumental Technologies

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pp. 3-22

"It is bad for me to talk about love,” confesses formalist critic and theorist of defamiliarization Viktor Shklovsky in his epistolary antinovel Zoo, ili Pis’ma ne o liubvi (Zoo, or Letters Not About Love, 1922). “Let’s talk a bit about automobiles.”1 To avoid brooding over such...

Part I. Homo Faber, Homo Ludens

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Chapter One - Poetry in Motion: Aleksei Gastev and the Aesthetic Origins of Soviet Biomechanics

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pp. 25-53

“Cemented with blood, the USSR stands firm,” boldly declare the founders of Lef in the inaugural issue of their journal.1 Human blood as a building material of the new Soviet Union, albeit a visceral image, should not be understood purely figuratively, as this statement...

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Chapter Two - The Biomechanics of Infidelity: Range of Motion and Limits of Control in Meyerhold’s Theater

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pp. 54-84

Gastev's importation of Western military-industrial biomechanics onto Russian soil constituted an attempt to preserve the doctrinal purity of the scientific management of labor under economic, political, and cultural conditions distinctly different from those in which the theory had developed. Biomechanics was to enter and transform Russian...

Part II. Alternative Technologies

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Chapter Three - Writing as Bodily Technology in Zamyatin’s We, or a Portrait of an Avant-Garde Artist as a Malfunctioning Machine

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pp. 87-100

Shortly after the nascent Soviet government consolidated its power and launched a program of rapid industrialization, Evgenii Zamyatin’s novel We (1920) scandalously questioned the validity of techno-scientific instrumentality, a central principle of societal transformation in Soviet Russia. The first major work of fiction to be censored by the...

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Chapter Four - The Incredible Heights of Organic Architecture: Tatlin, Khlebnikov, and the Technological Sublime

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pp. 101-132

In his article “Structure and Design in a Soviet Dystopia: H. G. Wells, Constructivism, and Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We,” William Hutchings argues that D- 503’s Integral could have been modeled in part on Vladimir Tatlin’s famous Monument to the Third International (1920–21). Hutchings points out...

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Chapter Five - Olesha’s Suicide Machine

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pp. 133-146

The ideal of the man-machine came into being in response to the rise of all-powerful technology and fears of losing control over the monster man had himself created. It is suggested in Zamyatin’s We that the mechanical men of OneState were inspired to turn their flesh-and-blood bodies into machines in the aftermath of a Thousand Years’ War, which no...

Part III. The Homeland of Technology

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Chapter Six - Convention, Play, and Technology in Russian Explorers’ American Discoveries

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pp. 149-181

In Russian, the idiomatic expression “to discover America” is typically ironic, uttered in response to an obvious statement. “Well, you have just discovered America” is thus not praise, but a rebuke. Rendering this idiom so effectively trenchant is precisely the inclusion of both the metaphorical and literal meanings of America; the interlocutor has failed to surprise...

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Chapter Seven - Red Pinkertons: Adventures in Artificial Reality

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pp. 182-223

In their 1922 manifesto, the group of young film directors self- described as Eccentrics explained their emergence thus: “Yesterday—the culture of Europe. Today—the technology of America. Industry, production under the Stars and Stripes. Either Americanization or the undertaker . . . The pace today: the rhythm of the machine, concentrated by America, realized on the...

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Conclusion - Poetics of the Unconscriptable

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pp. 224-232

From the age of the Industrial Revolution, technology was tethered to instrumentality, that is, viewed solely as an instrument in the acquisition of power, control, and mastery over the environment. Concomitantly, any technological undertaking was inevitably theorized as possessing a centripetal force that subjected the surrounding world to the exigencies...


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pp. 233-278

Works Cited

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pp. 279-294


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pp. 295-308

About the Author

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pp. 322-322

E-ISBN-13: 9780810166523
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810128941

Page Count: 300
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1
Volume Title: 1
Series Title: Studies in Russian Literature and Theory
Series Editor Byline: Gary Saul Morson See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 859686945
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Wonderlands of the Avant-Garde

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Avant-garde (Aesthetics) -- Russia (Federation) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Russian literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Arts, Russian -- 20th century.
  • Art and technology.
  • Machinery in literature.
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