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Encounters and Extensions
The Russian Avant-Garde in the Early Soviet Era, 1918-1928
Making Modernism Soviet provides a new understanding of the ideological engagement of Russian modern artists such as Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, and Vera Ermolaeva with the political and social agenda of the Bolsheviks in the chaotic years immediately following the Russian Revolution. Focusing on the relationship between power brokers and cultural institutions under conditions of state patronage, Pamela Kachurin lays to rest the myth of the imposition of control from above upon a victimized artistic community. Drawing on extensive archival research, she shows that Russian modernists used their positions within the expanding Soviet arts bureaucracy to build up networks of like-minded colleagues. Their commitment to one another and to the task of creating a socially transformative visual language for the new Soviet context allowed them to produce some of their most famous works of art. But it also contributed to the "Sovietization" of the art world that eventually sealed their fate.
“Mandelstam had no teacher,” marveled Anna Akhmatova, reflecting on his early maturity and singularity. But Mandelstam himself spoke of the need and even duty to study a poet’s literary roots. So how did this consummately complex, compelling, multi-resonant poet navigate and exploit the burden of the Russian Symbolist movement from which he emerged? How did this process change and augment his poetry? Through a series of illuminating readings, Stuart Goldberg explores the ongoing role that the poetry of Russian Symbolism played in Osip Mandelstam’s creative life, laying bare the poet’s productive play with distance and immediacy in his assimilation of the Symbolist heritage. At the same time, Mandelstam, Blok, and the Boundaries of Mythopoetic Symbolism presents the first coherent narrative of the poet’s fraught relationship with Alexander Blok, the most powerful poetic voice among the Symbolists. This dialogue, which was largely one-sided, extended beyond poetic intertext into the realms of poetics, charisma, and personality. Goldberg’s study pushes theoretical boundaries, exploring the juncture between pragmatics and intertext, adapting and challenging Bloom’s anxiety of influence theory, and, ultimately, tracing a shift in the nature of sincerity and authenticity that divided poetic generations.
Experience and Memory in Moscow's Arbat
The Arbat neighborhood in central Moscow has long been home to many of Russia's most famous artists, writers, and scholars, as well as several of its leading cultural establishments. In an elegantly written and evocative portrait of a unique urban space at a time of transition, Stephen V. Bittner explores how the neighborhood changed during the period of ideological relaxation under Khrushchev that came to be known as the thaw.
The thaw is typically remembered as a golden age, a period of artistic rebirth and of relatively free expression after decades of Stalinist repression. By considering events at the Vakhtangov Theater, the Gnesin Music-Pedagogy Institute, the Union of Architects, and the Institute of World Literature, Bittner finds that the thaw was instead characterized by much confusion and contestation. As political strictures loosened after Stalin's death, cultural figures in the Arbat split-often along generational lines-over the parameters of reform and over the amount of freedom of expression now permitted.
De-Stalinization provoked great anxiety because its scope was often unclear. Particularly in debates about Khrushchev's urban-planning initiatives, which involved demolishing a part of the historical Arbat to build an ensemble of concrete-and-steel high rises, a conflict emerged over what aspects of the Russian past should be prized in memory: the late tsarist city, the utopian modernism of the early Soviet period, or the neoclassical and gothic structures of Stalinism. Bittner's book is a window onto the complex beginning of a process that is not yet complete: deciding what to jettison and what to retain from the pre-Soviet and Soviet pasts as a new Russia moves to the future.
At a time when religious conflicts and persecution plagued early modern Europe, Poland and Prussia were havens for Mennonites and other religious minorities. Noted Anabaptist scholar Peter J. Klassen examines this extraordinary example of religious tolerance. Through extensive archival research in Poland, Germany, and the Netherlands, Klassen unearths rich material that has rarely, if ever, been studied previously. He demonstrates how the interaction of religious, political, and economic factors created a situation in Poland and Prussia that permitted a diversity of religious beliefs and practices. Mennonites in Early Modern Poland and Prussia focuses on the large Mennonite community in these countries. Klassen reveals how the Anabaptist groups were treated and explores whether the uncommon religious freedom they enjoyed gave rise to a flourishing of their faith or a falling away from its central tenets. Early modern Poland and Prussia are virtually ignored in most studies of the Reformation. Klassen brings them to light and life by focusing on an unusual oasis of tolerance in the midst of a Europe convulsed by the wars of religion.
Stylizing Life, Literature, and Costumes in Russia
Masked and costume balls thrived in Russia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries during a period of rich literary and theatrical experimentation. The first study of its kind, The Modernist Masquerade examines the cultural history of masquerades in Russia and their representations in influential literary works.
One hundred years after his death, Leo Tolstoy continues to be regarded as one of the worlds most accomplished writers. Historically, little attention has been paid to his wife Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya. Acting in the capacity of literary assistant, translator, transcriber, and editor, she played an important role in the development of her husbands career. Her memoirs which she titled My Life lay dormant for almost a century. Now their first-time-ever appearance in Russia is complemented by an unabridged and annotated English translation.
Tolstayas story takes us from her childhood through the early years of her marriage, the writing of War and Peace and Anna Karenina and into the first year of the twentieth century. She paints an intimate and honest portrait of her husbands character, providing new details about his life to which she alone was privy. She offers a better understanding of Tolstoys character, his qualities and failings as a husband and a father, and forms a picture of the quintessential Tolstoyan character which underlies his fiction.
My Life also reveals that Tolstaya was an accomplished author in her own rightas well as a translator, amateur artist, musician, photographer, and businesswomana rarity in the largely male-dominated world of the time. She was actively involved in the relief efforts for the 189192 famine and the emigration of the Doukhobors in 1899. She was a prolific correspondent, in touch with many prominent figures in Russian and Western society. Guests in her home ranged from peasants to princes, from anarchists to artists, from composers to philosophers. Her descriptions of these personalities read as a chronicle of the times, affording a unique portrait of late-19th- and early-20th-century Russian society, ranging from peasants to the Tsar himself.
My Life is the most important primary document about Tolstoy to be published in many years and a unique and intimate portrait of one of the greatest literary minds of all time.
Cold War Modernism and the Politics of Popular Culture
The Naked Communist argues that the political ideologies of modernity were fundamentally determined by four basic figures: the world, the enemy, the secret, and the catastrophe. While the "world" names the totality that functioned as the ultimate horizon of modern political imagination, the three other figures define the necessary limits of this totality by reflecting on the limits of representation. The book highlights the enduring presence of these figures in the modern imagination through detailed analysis of a concrete historical example: American anti-Communist politics of the 1950s. Its primary objective is to describe the internal mechanisms of what we could call an anti-Communist "aesthetic ideology." The book thus traces the way anti-Communist popular culture emerged in the discourse of Cold War liberalism as a political symptom of modernism. Based on a discursive analysis of American anti-Communist politics, the book presents parallel readings of modernism and popular fiction from the 1950s (nuclear holocaust novels, spy novels, and popular political novels) in order to show that, despite the radical separation of the two cultural fields, they both participated in a common ideological program.