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Limits to Interpretation Cover

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Limits to Interpretation

The Meanings of Anna Karenina

Vladimir E. Alexandrov

Vladimir E. Alexandrov advocates a broad revision of the academic study of literature and proposes an adaptive, text-specific reading methodology that is designed to minimize the circularity of interpretation inherent in the act of reading. He illustrates this method on the example of Tolstoy’s classic novel via a detailed "map" of the different possible readings that the novel can support.  Anna Karenina emerges as deeply conflicted, polyvalent, and quite unlike what one finds in other critical studies.

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Lotman and Cultural Studies

Encounters and Extensions

Edited by Andreas Schonle

     One of the most widely read and translated theorists of the former Soviet Union, Yurii Lotman was a daring and imaginative thinker. A cofounder of the Tartu-Moscow school of semiotics, he analyzed a broad range of cultural phenomena, from the opposition between Russia and the West to the symbolic construction of space, from cinema to card playing, from the impact of theater on painting to the impact of landscape design on poetry. His insights have been particularly important in conceptualizing the creation of meaning and understanding the function of art and literature in society, and they have enriched the work of such diverse figures as Paul Ricoeur, Stephen Greenblatt, Umberto Eco, Wolfgang Iser, Julia Kristeva, and Frederic Jameson.
     In this volume, edited by Andreas Schönle, contributors extend Lotman's theories to a number of fields. Focusing on his less frequently studied later period, Lotman and Cultural Studies engages with such ideas as the "semiosphere," the fluid, dynamic semiotic environment out of which meaning emerges; "auto-communication," the way in which people create narratives about themselves that in turn shape their self-identity; change, as both gradual evolution and an abrupt, unpredictable "explosion"; power; law and mercy; Russia and the West; center and periphery.
     As William Mills Todd observes in his afterword, the contributors to this volume test Lotman's legacy in a new context: "Their research agendas-Iranian and American politics, contemporary Russian and Czech politics, sexuality and the body-are distant from Lotman's own, but his concepts and awareness yield invariably illuminating results."

Making Modernism Soviet Cover

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Making Modernism Soviet

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, Blok, and the Boundaries of Mythopoetic Symbolism Cover

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Mandelstam, Blok, and the Boundaries of Mythopoetic Symbolism

“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.

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The Many Facets of Mikhail Kuzmin

A Miscellany

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The Many Lives of Khrushchev's Thaw Cover

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The Many Lives of Khrushchev's Thaw

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.

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Mapping the Feminine

Russian Women and Cultural Difference

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The Modernist Masquerade Cover

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The Modernist Masquerade

Stylizing Life, Literature, and Costumes in Russia

Colleen McQuillen

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.

            The masquerade's widespread appearance as a literary motif in works by such writers as Anna Akhmatova, Leonid Andreev, Andrei Bely, Aleksandr Blok, and Fyodor Sologub mirrored its popularity as a leisure-time activity and illuminated its integral role in the Russian modernist creative consciousness. Colleen McQuillen charts how the political, cultural, and personal significance of lavish costumes and other forms of self-stylizing evolved in Russia over time. She shows how their representations in literature engaged in dialog with the diverse aesthetic trends of Decadence, Symbolism, and Futurism and with the era's artistic philosophies.

My Life Cover

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My Life

Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya

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.

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Nabokov Studies

Vol. 1 (1994) through current issue

Sponsored by the International Vladimir Nabokov Society, Nabokov Studies is a refereed journal publishing critical and theoretical articles and forums on one of the twentieth century's most important writers.

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