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Ab Imperio

2000, no. 1 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

Evgeny Dobrenko

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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Alternative Kinships

Economy and Family in Russian Modernism

According to Marx, the family is the primal scene of the division of labor and the “germ” of every exploitative practice. In this insightful study, Jacob Emery examines the Soviet Union’s programmatic effort to institute a global siblinghood of the proletariat, revealing how alternative kinships motivate different economic relations and make possible other artistic forms.

A time in which literary fiction was continuous with the social fictions that organize the social economy, the early Soviet period magnifies the interaction between the literary imagination and the reproduction of labor onto a historical scale. Narratives dating back to the ancient world feature scenes in which a child looks into a mirror and sees someone else reflected there, typically a parent. In such scenes, two definitions of the aesthetic coincide: art as a fantastic space that shows an alternate reality and art as a mirror that reflects the world as it is. In early Soviet literature, mirror scenes illuminate the intersection of imagination and economy, yielding new relations destined to replace biological kinship—relations based in food, language, or spirit.

These metaphorical kinships have explanatory force far beyond their context, providing a vantage point onto, for example, the Gothic literature of the early United States and the science fiction discourses of the postwar period. Alternative Kinships will appeal to scholars of Russian literature, comparative literature, and literary theory, as well as those interested in reconciling formalist and materialist approaches to culture.
 
 

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Andrey Bely

A Critical Review

Gerald Janecek

Andrey Bely, novelist, essayist, theoretician, critic, and poet, was a central figure in the Russian Symbolist movement of the 1920s, the most important literary movement in Russia in this century. Bely articulated a Symbolist aesthetic and originated a new approach to the study of Russian metrics and versification, giving rise to a new scholarly discipline that still thrives in the West.

Although regarded by some critics, including Vladimir Nabokov, as the author of the greatest Russian novel of this century, Bely has been nearly forgotten in his native country for ideological reasons. In the West he remains little known and generally under-valued. But with recent English translations of Kotik Letaev and his masterpiece, Petersburg, interest in Bely is increasing. Janecek's book brings together some of the best modern scholarship on Bely and the Russian Symbolist movement of the 1920s.

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Anna Karenina and Others

Tolstoy’s Labyrinth of Plots

Liza Knapp

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Archetypes from Underground

Notes on the Dostoevskian Self

Lonny Harrison

Archetypes from Underground: Notes on the Dostoevskian Self uncovers archetypal imagery in Dostoevsky’s stories and novels and argues that archetypes bring a new dimension to our understanding and appreciation of his works. In this interdisciplinary study, Harrison analyzes selected texts in light of fresh research in Dostoevsky studies, cultural history, comparative mythology, and depth psychology. He argues that one of Dostoevsky’s chief concerns is the crisis of modernity, and that he dramatizes the conflicts of the modern self by depicting the dynamic, transformative nature of the psyche. Harrison finds the language and imagery of archetypes in Dostoevsky’s characters, symbols, and themes, and shows how these resonate in remarkable ways with the archetypes of self, persona, and the shadow. He demonstrates that major themes in Dostoevsky coincide with Western esotericism, such as the complementarity of opposites, transformation, and the symbolism of death and resurrection. These arguments inform a close reading of several of Dostoevsky’s texts, including The Double, Notes from Underground, and The Brothers Karamazov. Archetypes inform these works and others, bringing vitality to Dostoevsky’s major characters and themes.

This research represents a departure from the religious and philosophical questions that have dominated Dostoevsky studies. This work is the first sustained analysis of Dostoevsky’s work in light of archetypes, framing a topic that calls for further investigation. Archetypes illumine the author’s ideas about Russian national identity and its faith traditions and help us redefine our understanding of Russian realism and the prominent place Dostoevsky occupies within it.

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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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The Author as Hero

Self and Tradition in Bulgakov, Pasternak, and Nabokov

Justin Weir

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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