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Literature > Russian and East European Literature

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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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Books, Bibliographies, and Pugs

A Festschrift to Honor Murlin Croucher

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Brodsky Abroad

Empire, Tourism, Nostalgia

Sanna Turoma

Expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 and honored with the Nobel Prize fifteen years later, poet Joseph Brodsky in many ways fit the grand tradition of exiled writer. But Brodsky’s years of exile did not render him immobile: though he never returned to his beloved Leningrad, he was free to travel the world and write about it. In Brodsky Abroad, Sanna Turoma discusses Brodsky’s poems and essays about Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, and Venice. Challenging traditional conceptions behind Brodsky’s status as a leading émigré poet and major descendant of Russian and Euro-American modernism, she relocates the analysis of his travel texts in the diverse context of contemporary travel and its critique. Turoma views Brodsky’s travel writing as a response not only to his exile but also to the postmodern and postcolonial landscape that initially shaped the writing of these texts.

    In his Latin American encounters, Brodsky exhibits disdain for third-world politics and invokes the elegiac genre to reject Mexico’s postcolonial reality and to ironically embrace the romanticism of an earlier Russian and European imperial age. In an essay on Istanbul he assumes Russia’s ambiguous position between East and West as his own to negotiate a distinct, and controversial, interpretation of Orientalism. And, Venice, the emblematic tourist city, becomes the site for a reinvention of his lyric self as more fluid, hybrid, and cosmopolitan.

    Brodsky Abroad reveals the poet’s previously uncharted trajectory from alienated dissident to celebrated man of letters and offers new perspectives on the geopolitical, philosophical, and linguistic premises of his poetic imagination.

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Byron and the Jews

Sheila A. Spector

A full-length critical inquiry into the complex interrelationship between the British poet and the Jews.

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Challenging the Bard

Dostoevsky and Pushkin, a Study of Literary Relationship

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A City of Memory

A Bilingual Anthology of Contemporary Polish Poetry

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A Commentary to Pushkin’s Lyric Poetry, 1826–1836

Michael Wachtel

Alexander Pushkin’s lyric poetry—much of it known to Russians by heart—is the cornerstone of the Russian literary tradition, yet until now there has been no detailed commentary of it in any language.
    Michael Wachtel’s book, designed for those who can read Russian comfortably but not natively, provides the historical, biographical, and cultural context needed to appreciate the work of Russia’s greatest poet. Each entry begins with a concise summary highlighting the key information about the poem’s origin, subtexts, and poetic form (meter, stanzaic structure, and rhyme scheme). In line-by-line fashion, Wachtel then elucidates aspects most likely to challenge non-native readers: archaic language, colloquialisms, and unusual diction or syntax. Where relevant, he addresses political, religious, and folkloric issues.
    Pushkin’s verse has attracted generations of brilliant interpreters. The purpose of this commentary is not to offer a new interpretation, but to give sufficient linguistic and cultural contextualization to make informed interpretation possible.

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Comparative Central European Culture

edited by Steven Totosy de Zepetnek

This volume contains selected papers of conferences organized by the editor, Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek, in 1999 and 2000 in Canada and the U.S. on various topics of culture and literature in Central and East Europe.

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