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Area and Ethnic Studies > Russian and East European Studies

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Ab Imperio

2011, no. 4 through current issue

Ab Imperio Quarterly is an international humanities and social sciences peer-reviewed journal dedicated to studies in new imperial history and the interdisciplinary and comparative study of nationalism and nationalities in the post-Soviet space. The journal has been published since June 2000, four times a year. The languages of publication are English and Russian with summaries, respectively, in Russian and English. Ab Imperio pursues a policy of thematic issues within annual programs. Ab Imperio serves as an international forum for scholars reflecting on historical and contemporary encounters with diversity in composite societies.

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Aesthetics of Alienation

Reassessment of Early Soviet Cultural Theories

Dobrenko, Evgeny

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.

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Architecture of Oblivion

Ruins and Historical Conciousness in Modern Russia

Despite attempts to promote the aesthetics of ruins in Russia—from Catherine the Great’s construction of fake ruins in imperial parks to Josef Brodsky’s elegiac meditations—ruins have never achieved the status they enjoy in Western Europe. While the Soviet Union was notorious for leveling churches, post-Soviet Russia has only intensified the practice of massive destruction and reconstruction. Architecture of Oblivion examines the role of ruins in the development of Russia’s historical consciousness from the 18th century to the present. Investigating the meaning and functions ruins have acquired in Russian culture, Schönle looks at ideological reasons for the current disregard for the value of ruins and historical buildings, in particular by political authorities, and reveals how ruins have often become a site of resistance to official ideology and an invitation to map out alternative visions of history and of statehood. An interdisciplinary study of Russia’s response to ruins has never been attempted, although the topic of ruins has garnered considerable interest in Western Europe and in the U.S. This original work from a leading authority on the subject will appeal to historians of Russian culture and thought, literature and art scholars, and general readers interested in ruins.

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Art after Philosophy

Boris Pasternak's Early Prose

Art after Philosophy: Boris Pasternak’s Early Prose, by Elena Glazov-Corrigan, redefines an area in Slavic studies which has suffered from neglect for several decades, namely, Pasternak’s early prose narratives. In her bold new study, Glazov-Corrigan analyzes the conceptual networks of thought Pasternak developed when he turned to literature after abandoning the study of Neo-Kantianism in Marburg during the summer of 1912. This book shows conclusively that Pasternak’s knowledge of philosophy is inseparable from his prose works, even though in his early stories and novellas (1913–1918) philosophical ideas operate neither as discrete textual units nor as micro-elements or clusters of possible signification. In the early Pasternak, philosophy becomes a narrative art, a large-scale narrative frame, a manner of seeing rather than of constructing reality. After Roman Jakobson’s famous 1935 essay, which characterized the early Pasternak as a “virtuoso of metonymy,” in contrast to the metaphoric Mayakovsky, no other approach has been able to generate comparable scholarly influence. The present study takes up the implicit challenge of this critical impasse. Entering into a debate with Jakobson’s findings, Art after Philosophy illuminates Pasternak’s boldest artistic experiments and suggests to his readers entirely new ways of approaching not only his early but also his later writing.

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Author as Hero

Self and Tradition in Bulgakov, Pasternak, and Nabokov

Weir, Justin

Justin Weir develops a persuasive analysis of the complex relationship between authorial self reflection and literary tradition in three of the most famous Russian novels of the first half of the twentieth century: Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, and Nabokov's The Gift. With Weir's innovative interpretation, and its compelling historical, cultural, and theoretical insights, The Author as Hero offers a new view of an important moment in the evolution of Russian literature.

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Bai Ganyo

Incredible Tales of a Modern Bulgarian

Aleko Konstantinov

A comic classic of world literature, Aleko Konstantinov’s 1895 novel Bai Ganyo follows the misadventures of rose-oil salesman Ganyo Balkanski (“Bai” is a Bulgarian title of intimate respect) as he travels in Europe. Unkempt but endearing, Bai Ganyo blusters his way through refined society in Vienna, Dresden, and St. Petersburg with an eye peeled for pickpockets and a free lunch. Konstantinov’s satire turns darker when Bai Ganyo returns home—bullying, bribing, and rigging elections in Bulgaria, a new country that had recently emerged piecemeal from the Ottoman Empire with the help of Czarist Russia.
    Bai Ganyo has been translated into most European languages, but now Victor Friedman and his fellow translators have finally brought this Balkan masterpiece to English-speaking readers, accompanied by a helpful introduction, glossary, and notes.
 
Winner, Bulgarian Studies Association Book Prize
 
Finalist, ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year in the Fiction-Multicultural category

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Becoming Mikhail Lermontov

The Ironies of Romantic Individualism in Nicholas I's Russia

Powelstock, David

Mikhail Lermontov (1814 1841) is one of Russia's most prominent poets and one of its most puzzling. In this radically new interpretation, David Powelstock reveals how the seeming contradictions in Lermontov's life and works can be understood as manifestations of a coherent worldview.

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Beyond the Flesh

Alexander Blok, Zinaida Gippius, and the Symbolist Sublimation of Sex

Jenifer Presto

Though the Russian Symbolist movement was dominated by a concern with transcending sex, many of the writers associated with the movement exhibited an intense preoccupation with matters of the flesh. Drawing on poetry, plays, short stories, essays, memoirs, and letters, as well as feminist and psychoanalytic theory, Beyond the Flesh documents the often unexpected form that this obsession with gender and the body took in the life and art of two of the most important Russian Symbolists.
            Jenifer Presto argues that the difficulties encountered in reading Alexander Blok and Zinaida Gippius within either a feminist or a traditional, binary gendered framework derive not only from the peculiarities of their creative personalities but also from the specific Russian cultural context. Although these two poets engaged in gendered practices that, at times, appeared to be highly idiosyncratic and even incited gossip among their contemporaries, they were not operating in a vacuum. Instead, they were responding to philosophical concepts that were central to Russian Symbolism and that would continue to shape modernism in Russia.

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The Bohemian Body

Gender and Sexuality in Modern Czech Culture

Alfred Thomas

     The Bohemian Body examines the modernist forces within nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe that helped shape both Czech nationalism and artistic interaction among ethnic and social groups—Czechs and Germans, men and women, gays and straights. 
     By re-examining the work of key Czech male and female writers and poets from the National Revival to the Velvet Revolution, Alfred Thomas exposes the tendency of Czech literary criticism to separate the political and the personal in modern Czech culture. He points instead to the complex interplay of the political and the personal across ethnic, cultural, and intellectual lines and within the works of such individual writers as Karel Hynek Mácha, Bozena Nemcová, and Rainer Maria Rilke, resulting in the emergence and evolution of a protean modern identity. The product is a seemingly paradoxical yet nuanced understanding of Czech culture (including literature, opera, and film), long overlooked or misunderstood by Western scholars.

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