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The Russian Joke in Cultural Context
In his original new study, Seth Graham analyzes a rich and forgotten vein of humor in an otherwise bleak environment. The late Soviet period (1961–1986) hardly seems fertile ground for humor, but Russian jokes (anekdoty) about life in the Soviet Union were ubiquitous. The cultural and political relaxation in the decade following Stalin’s death produced considerable optimism among Soviet citizens. The anekdot exploited and exposed what Graham calls "Soviet diglossia" (official Sovietese vs. Russian everyday language) and emphasized the distance between official myths and quotidian reality. Jokes engaged a range of official and popular culture genres and also worked meta textually, referring to the political consequences of jokes. While the dissidents of this period, who stressed the heroic and opposed everything Soviet, have been much written about, Graham’s work on the anekdoty—written in the third person, ironic, and engaged with everything Soviet—fills a hole that has been overlooked in cultural history.
History and Literature
Throughout the development of modern Russian society, the memoir, with its dual agendas of individualized expression and reliable reportage, has maintained a popular and abiding national genre "contract" between Russian writers and readers. The essays in The Russian Memoir: History and Literature seek to appreciate the literary construction of this much read, yet little analyzed, form and to explore its functions as interpretive history, social modelling, and political expression in Russian culture.
Hunting Stories, Letters from Exile, and Military Memoirs
Of a noble and distinguished family disenfranchised by the Bolshevik revolution, Vladimir Trubetskoi (1892 1937) alone remained in Russia, and suffered the consequences of his decision. His life and experiences are well documented in this remarkable volume, a selection of his writings that reflects his comfortable prewar existence and his post revolutionary poverty, uncertainty, and displacement, all conveyed with humor and ironic detachment.
The Creative Universe of Viacheslav Ivanov
The Poetic Mind of Marina Tsvetaeva
Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva’s powerful poetic voice and her tragic life have often prompted literary commentators to treat her as either a martyr or a monster. Born in Russia in 1892, she emigrated to Europe in 1922, returned to the Soviet Union at the height of the Stalinist Terror, and committed suicide in 1941. Alyssa Dinega focuses on the poetry, rediscovering Tsvetaeva as a serious thinker with a coherent artistic and philosophical vision.
Imperial Visions, Messianic Dreams, 1890–1940
Balkan Community Building and the Fear of Freedom
Examines the themes of sacrifice and violence for the sake of community, nation, and ideology by taking up the Balkan legend of the immurement of a live female body into an architectural edifice that cannot stand without a human sacrifice. The sacrificed body becomes a metaphor for acts of violence in the course of the region’s many ethno-religious conflicts in the 20th century, as Aleksic demonstrates how this sacrificial economy functions in a range of cultural and literary texts. The theoretical framework encompasses sociological analyses, feminist theory, human rights reports, and other sources documenting the destruction of individual subjectivities by the purported necessity of nationalist projects.
Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston's critical biography of the Romanian-born French philosopher E. M. Cioran focuses on his crucial formative years as a mystical revolutionary attracted to right-wing nationalist politics in interwar Romania, his writings of this period, and his self-imposed exile to France in 1937. This move led to his transformation into one of the most famous French moralists of the 20th century. As an enthusiast of the anti-rationalist philosophies widely popular in Europe during the first decades of the 20th century, Cioran became an advocate of the fascistic Iron Guard. In her quest to understand how Cioran and other brilliant young intellectuals could have been attracted to such passionate national revival movements, Zarifopol-Johnston, herself a Romanian emigré, sought out the aging philosopher in Paris in the early 1990s and retraced his steps from his home village of Rasinari and youthful years in Sibiu, through his student years in Bucharest and Berlin, to his early residence in France. Her portrait of Cioran is complemented by an engaging autobiographical account of her rediscovery of her own Romanian past.
This book provides an introduction to Sergei Dovlatov (1941 90) that is closely attentive to the details of his life and work, their place in the history of Soviet society and literature, and of émigré culture during this turbulent period. A journalist, newspaper editor, and prose writer, Dovlatov is most highly regarded for his short stories, which draw heavily on his experiences in Russia before 1979, when he was forced out of the country. During compulsory military service, before becoming a journalist, he worked briefly as a prison camp guard —an experience that gave him a unique perspective on the operations of the Soviet state. After moving to New York, Dovlatov published works (in the New Yorker and elsewhere) that earned him considerable renown in America and back in Russia. Young’s book presents a valuable critical overview of the prose of a late twentieth century master within the context of the prevailing Russian and larger literary culture.