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Area and Ethnic Studies > Russian and East European Studies

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Erotic Nihilism in Late Imperial Russia

The Case of Mikhail Artsybashev's Sanin

Otto Boele

Banned shortly after its publication in 1907, the Russian novel Sanin scandalized readers with the sexual exploits of its eponymous hero. Wreaking havoc on the fictional town he visits in Mikhail Artsybashev’s story, the character Sanin left an even deeper imprint on the psyche of the real-life Russian public. Soon “Saninism” became the buzzword for the perceived faults of the nation. Seen as promoting a wave of hedonistic, decadent behavior, the novel was suppressed for decades, leaving behind only the rumor of its supposedly epidemic effect on a vulnerable generation of youth.
    Who were the Saninists, and what was their “teaching” all about? Delving into police reports, newspaper clippings, and amateur plays, Otto Boele finds that Russian youth were not at all swept away by the self-indulgent lifestyle of the novel’s hero. In fact, Saninism was more smoke than fire—a figment of the public imagination triggered by anxieties about the revolution of 1905 and the twilight of the Russian empire. The reception of the novel, Boele shows, reflected much deeper worries caused by economic reforms, an increase in social mobility, and changing attitudes toward sexuality.
    Showing how literary criticism interacts with the age-old medium of rumor, Erotic Nihilism in Late Imperial Russia offers a meticulous analysis of the scandal’s coverage in the provincial press and the reactions of young people who appealed to their peers to resist the novel’s nihilistic message. By examining the complex dialogue between readers and writers, children and parents, this study provides fascinating insights into Russian culture on the eve of World War I.
 

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Erotic Utopia

The Decadent Imagination in Russia's Fin de Siecle

Olga Matich

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

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The Escaped Mystery

The Poetry of Momcilo Nastasijevic

by

The Escaped Mystery is devoted to the poetry of Momčilo Nastasijević, whose poetic achievement is described by Edward Dennis Goy as “one of the greatest, if not the greatest, in the Serbian language of the twentieth century.” Although his output was small, Nastasijević was the supreme modernist Yugoslav poet of his time and is deeply respected by leading modern Serbian poets, such as Vasko Popa and Miodrag Pavlović. Emotions, sensory impressions, love, and fear make up the “mystery” behind Nastasijević’s poetry. In this book the mystery – the lyrical experience – is caught in its various aspects but never held too long or over-defined. Goy examines the language, music, and meaning of the poems in their original and through his own English translations.

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Essays on Gogol

Logos and the Russian Word

Susanne Fusso and Priscilla Meyer

These fourteen essays reflect the increasingly interdisciplinary character of Russian literature research in general and of the study of Gogol in particular, focusing on specific works, Gogol's own character, and the various approaches to aesthetic, religious, and philosophical issues raised by his writing.

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Esthetics as Nightmare

Russian Literary Theory, 1855-1870

Charles A. Moser

As an epoch of "censorship terror" drew to a close with the death of Nicholas I and the end of the Crimean War, Russian intellectuals had begun expressing their desires for political, philosophical, and religious reform through passionate debates over literature and esthetics. Charles Moser re-creates the leading controversies over literature and art during a crucial period that saw the work of such authors as Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy. Emphasizing particularly the years from 1862 to 1870, Moser presents the doctrines of lesser known and major figures from both liberal and conservative camps, which influenced the development of Socialist Realism and Russian Formalism.

The debates presented begin with a discussion of an essay by Nikolay Chernyshevsky, "Esthetic Relations of Art to Reality," which set the stage for the entire period. Among the many topics examined by the author are the doctrines of the radical critic Dmitry Pisarev and the writings of his opponents, such as Nikolay Solovev and Evgeny Edelson.

Originally published in 1989.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Estonian Life Stories

Edited by Tiina Kirss

This anthology contains 25 selected life stories collected from Estonians who lived through the tribulations of the 20 century, and describe the travails of ordinary people under numerous regimes. The autobiographical accounts provide authentic perspectives on events of this period, where time is placed in the context of life-spans, and subjects grounded in personal experience. Most of the life stories reveal sufferings under foreign (Russian) oppression.

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The Ethics of Witnessing

The Holocaust in Polish Writers' Diaries from Warsaw, 1939-1945

Rachel Feldhay Brenner

The Ethics of Witnessing investigates the reactions of five important Polish diaristswriters—Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, Maria Dąbrowska, Aurelia Wyleżyńska, ZofiaNałkowska, and Stanisław Rembek—during the period when the Nazis persecuted and murdered Warsaw’s Jewish population. The responses to the Holocaust of these prominent prewar authors extended from insistence on empathic interaction with victims to resentful detachment from Jewish suffering. Whereas some defied the dehumanization of the Jews and endeavored to maintain intersubjective relationships with the victims they attempted to rescue, others selfdeceptively evaded the Jewish plight. The Ethics of Witnessing examines the extent to which ideologies of humanism and nationalism informed the diarists’ perceptions, proposing that the reality of the Final Solution exposed the limits of both orientations and ultimately destroyed the ethical landscape shaped by the Enlightenment tradition, which promised the equality and fellowship of all human beings.

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Eugenics and the Welfare State

Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland

In 1997 Eugenics and the Welfare State caused an uproar with international repercussions. This edition contains a new introduction by Broberg and Roll-Hansen, addressing events that occurred following the original publication. The four essays in this book stand as a chilling indictment of mass sterilization practices, not only in Scandinavia but in other European countries and the United States--eugenics practices that remained largely hidden from the public view until recently. Eugenics and the Welfare State also provides an in-depth, critical examination of the history, politics, science, and economics that led to mass sterilization programs in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland; programs put in place for the "betterment of society" and based largely on the "junk science" of eugenics that was popular before the rise of Nazism in Germany. When the results of Broberg's and Roll-Hansen's book were widely publicized in August 1997, the London Observer reported, "Yesterday Margot Wallstrom, the Swedish Minister for Social Policy, issued a belated reaction to the revelations. She said: 'What went on is barbaric and a national disgrace.' She pledged to create a law ensuring that involuntary sterilisation would never again be used in Sweden, and promised compensation to victims." Ultimately, the Swedish government not only apologized to the many thousands who had been sterilized without their knowledge or against their will, but also put in place a program for the payment of reparations to these unfortunate victims.

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Exile

The Sense of Alienation in Modern Russian Letters

David Patterson

The life of a human community rests on common experience. Yet in modem life there is an experience common to all that threatens the very basis of community -- the experience of exile. No one in the modem world has been spared the encounter with homelessness. Refugees and fugitives, the disillusioned and disenfranchised grow in number every day. Why does it happen? What does it mean? And how are we implicated?

David Patterson responds to these and related questions by examining exile, a primary motif in Russian thought over the last century and a half. By "exile" he means not only a form of punishment but an existential condition.

Drawing on texts by such familiar figures as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, and Brodsky, as well as less thoroughly examined figures, including Florensky, Shestov, Tertz, and Gendelev, Patterson moves beyond the political and geographical fact of exile to explore its spiritual, metaphysical, and linguistic aspects. Thus he pursues the connections between exile and identity, identity and meaning, meaning and language.

Patterson shows that the problem of meaning in human life is a problem of homelessness, that the effort to return from exile is an effort to return meaning to the word, and that the exile of the word is an exile of the human being. By making heard voices from the Russian wilderness, Patterson makes visible the wilderness of the world.

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Fare Well, Illyria

David Binder

As a reporter for the prestigious New York Times the author interviewed many of the leading political figures of the Balkans (Illyria). He also sought out the area's intellectuals, many of them critical of their leaders, and everyday people who provide a sense of daily life. He devotes a chapter to each ethnic group from Vlachs to Serbs, talks about their differences and similarities, and does so without giving offense. He also provides a short historical account of the various places he visits, which deepens our understanding of the local cultures. The reader meets people from all walks of life: politicians, poets, literary and art critics, journalists, handymen, car mechanics, fishermen and farmers. From Milovan Djilas and Nicolae Ceausescu to Markos Vafiadis and Sali Berisha to the Serbian “majstor” Misha and an un-named Bosnian bar singer, Binder's book features a remarkable gallery of people whose presence contributes authenticity and human warmth to the narrative.

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