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If modernism marked, as some critics claim, an "apocalypse of cultural community," then Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938) must rank among its most representative figures. Born to Central European Jews in Warsaw on the cusp of the modern age, he could claim neither Russian nor European traditions as his birthright. Describing the poetic movement he helped to found, Acmeism, as a "yearning for world culture," he defined the impulse that charges his own poetry and prose. Clare Cavanagh has written a sustained study placing Mandelstam’s "remembrance and invention" of a usable poetic past in the context of modernist writing in general, with particular attention to the work of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound.
Cavanagh traces Mandelstam’s creation of tradition from his earliest lyrics to his last verses, written shortly before his arrest and subsequent death in a Stalinist camp. Her work shows how the poet, generalizing from his own dilemmas and disruptions, addressed his epoch’s paradoxical legacy of disinheritance--and how he responded to this unwelcome legacy with one of modernism’s most complex, ambitious, and challenging visions of tradition. Drawing on not only Russian and Western modernist writing and theory, but also modern European Jewish culture, Russian religious thought, postrevolutionary politics, and even silent film, Cavanagh traces Mandelstam’s recovery of a "world culture" vital, vast, and varied enough to satisfy the desires of the quintessential outcast modernist.
Post-Communist Cultures through an East-West Gaze
"... a hot subject in today's scholarship... and a groundbreaking project of vital significance to the field of cultural studies at both 'western' and 'eastern' geographical locations." -- Elwira Grossman
Over the Wall/After the Fall maps a new discourse on the evolution of cultural life in Eastern Europe following the end of communism. Departing from traditional binary views of East/West, the contributors to this volume consider the countries and the peoples of the region on their own terms. Drawing on insights from cultural studies, gender theory, and postcolonial studies, this lively collection addresses gender issues and sexual politics, consumerism, high and popular culture, architecture, media, art, and theater. Among the themes of the essays are the Western pop success of Bulgarian folk choirs, the Czechs' reception of Frank Gehry's unconventional building in the center of Prague, bohemians in Lviv, and cryptographic art installations from Bratislava.
Sex and Violence in Contemporary Russian Popular Culture
Perestroika and the end of the Soviet Union transformed every aspect of life in Russia, and as hope began to give way to pessimism, popular culture came to reflect the anxiety and despair felt by more and more Russians. Free from censorship for the first time in Russia's history, the popular culture industry (publishing, film, and television) began to disseminate works that featured increasingly explicit images and descriptions of sex and violence.
In Overkill, Eliot Borenstein explores this lurid and often-disturbing cultural landscape in close, imaginative readings of such works as You're Just a Slut, My Dear! (Ty prosto shliukha, dorogaia!), a novel about sexual slavery and illegal organ harvesting; the Nympho trilogy of books featuring a Chechen-fighting sex addict; and the Mad Dog and Antikiller series of books and films recounting, respectively, the exploits of the Russian Rambo and an assassin killing in the cause of justice. Borenstein argues that the popular cultural products consumed in the post-perestroika era were more than just diversions; they allowed Russians to indulge their despair over economic woes and everyday threats. At the same time, they built a notion of nationalism or heroism that could be maintained even under the most miserable of social conditions, when consumers felt most powerless.
For Borenstein, the myriad depictions of deviance in pornographic and also crime fiction, with their patently excessive and appalling details of social and moral decay, represented the popular culture industry's response to the otherwise unimaginable scale of Russia's national collapse. "The full sense of collapse," he writes, "required a panoptic view that only the media and culture industry were eager to provide, amalgamating national collapse into one master narrative that would then be readily available to most individuals as a framework for understanding their own suffering and their own fears."
Novel and City, 1900–1921
Since its founding three hundred years ago, the city of Saint Petersburg has captured the imaginations of the most celebrated Russian writers, whose characters map the city by navigating its streets from the aristocratic center to the gritty outskirts. While Tsar Peter the Great planned the streetscapes of Russia’s northern capital as a contrast to the muddy and crooked streets of Moscow, Andrei Bely’s novel Petersburg (1916), a cornerstone of Russian modernism and the culmination of the “Petersburg myth” in Russian culture, takes issue with the city’s premeditated and supposedly rational character in the early twentieth century.
“Petersburg”/Petersburg studies the book and the city against and through each other. It begins with new readings of the novel—as a detective story inspired by bomb-throwing terrorists, as a representation of the aversive emotion of disgust, and as a painterly avant-garde text—stressing the novel’s phantasmagoric and apocalyptic vision of the city. Taking a cue from Petersburg’s narrator, the rest of this volume (and the companion Web site, stpetersburg.berkeley.edu/) explores the city from vantage points that have not been considered before—from its streetcars and iconic art-nouveau office buildings to the slaughterhouse on the city fringes. From poetry and terrorist memoirs, photographs and artwork, maps and guidebooks of that period, the city emerges as a living organism, a dreamworld in flux, and a junction of modernity and modernism.
Leisure and Luxury in the Eastern Bloc
Essays from top scholars address topics ranging from fashion and game shows to smoking and camping. The authors of the essays in this collection investigate the ways in which pleasurable activities, like many other facets of daily life, were both a space in which these communist governments tried to insinuate themselves and thereby further expand the reach of their authority, and also an opportunity for people to assert their individuality.
The Female Protagonist in Russian Literature
A Plot of Her Own presents compelling new readings of major texts in the Russian literary canon, all of which are readily available in translation. The female protagonists in the works examined are inextricably linked with the fundamental issues raised by the novels they inform; the interpretations offered strive not to be reductive or doctrinaire, not to be imposed from the outside but to arise from the texts themselves and the historical circumstances in which they were written. Authors discussed include Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Bulgakov, and the novels considered range from Fathers and Children to Zamyatin's anti Utopian We. Throughout, the contributors new visions expand our understanding of the words and reveal new significance in them.
The Russian Historical Novel in the Imperial Age
Balanced precariously between fact and fiction, the historical novel is often viewed with suspicion. Some have attacked it as a mongrel form, a “bastard son” born of “history’s flagrant adultery with imagination.” Yet it includes some of the most celebrated achievements of Russian literature, with Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy, and scores of other writers contributing to this tradition.
Dan Ungurianu’s Plotting History traces the development of the Russian historical novel from its inception in the romantic era to the emergence of Modernism on the eve of the Revolution. Organized historically and thematically, the study is focused on the cultural paradigms that shaped the evolution of the genre and are reflected in masterpieces such as The Captain’s Daughter and War and Peace. Ungurianu examines the variety of approaches by which Russian writers combined fact with fiction and explores the range of subjects that inspired the Russian historical imagination.
Outstanding Academic Title, Choice Magazine
“Ungurianu has produced a most valuable work for literary scholars.”—Andrew M. Drozd, Slavic and East European Journal
“[Ungurianu’s] overwhelming knowledge, impeccable documentation, erudite notes, and valuable addenda make for a treasure house of information and keen analysis. . . . Essential.”—Choice
After the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, educated Russians began to present plays as part of a crusade to "civilize" the peasants. Relying on archival and published material virtually unknown outside Russia, this study looks at how playwrights criticized Russian social and political realities, how various groups perceived their plays, and how the plays motivated viewers to change themselves or change their circumstances. The picture that emerges is of a potent civic art influential in a way that eluded and challenged authoritarian control.