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Literature > Russian and East European Literature

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The Russian Prospero Cover

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The Russian Prospero

The Creative Universe of Viacheslav Ivanov

Robert Bird

Viacheslav Ivanov (1866–1949), the central intellectual force in Russian modernism, achieved through his work an original synthesis of Christianity, Platonism, and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. His powerful intellect exerted an immeasurable influence in modernist Russia and the early Soviet Union, and after emigrating to Italy in 1924 he played an important role in intellectual debates in Western Europe between the wars. In recent years, Ivanov's manifold contributions have been recognized in all major aspects of Russian culture, including poetry, literary theory, philosophy, and theology.

In The Russian Prospero, Robert Bird uncovers the foundations of Ivanov's poetic and theoretical universe, traces its evolution, and explores its connections to cultural and intellectual currents in international modernism. Blending a close reading of Ivanov's work with a thoughtful analysis of his place within twentieth-century thought, Bird finds that Ivanov's ecstatic creative psychology leads directly to a consideration of history as a continuum of human interpretive activity, and to a conception of art as a historical force. He emphasizes and dramatizes Ivanov's quest to harness the power of art and apply it to concrete life-situations. It is the dilemma of Prospero, who must liberate his attendant spirit Ariel in order to restore full sovereignty over his own creative self and to regain ethical agency. The productive tension that resulted from Ivanov's struggle was a remarkable force in Russian modernism and remains a powerful spur for our own reflections on modernity.  
Outstanding Academic Title, Choice Magazine
 

“[Bird’s] clear explanations of Ivanov’s ideas and his informed, insightful, astute readings of the poetic works make this book required reading for anyone interested in modern poetry, intellectual history, cultural studies, and philosophy of early 20th century Russian and European thought. . . . Essential.”—Choice

“[Bird] makes a welcome contribution to our understanding of Russian modernism in its broader European context . . . . In this undertaking he has not only succeeded admirably, but will undoubtedly inspire others to follow him.”—Pamela Davidson, The Russian Review

“The most comprehensive overall treatment of Ivanov’s work to date.”—David N. Wells, The Slavic and East European Journal

A Russian Psyche Cover

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A Russian Psyche

The Poetic Mind of Marina Tsvetaeva

Alyssa W. Dinega

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.

Russia's Rome Cover

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Russia's Rome

Imperial Visions, Messianic Dreams, 1890–1940

Judith E. Kalb

A wide-ranging study of empire, religious prophecy, and nationalism in literature, Russia’s Rome: Imperial Visions, Messianic Dreams, 1890–1940 provides the first examination of Russia’s self-identification with Rome during a period that encompassed the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 and the rise of the Soviet state. Analyzing Rome-related texts by six writers—Dmitrii Merezhkovskii, Valerii Briusov, Aleksandr Blok, Viacheslav Ivanov, Mikhail Kuzmin, and Mikhail Bulgakov—Judith E. Kalb argues that the myth of Russia as the “Third Rome” was resurrected to create a Rome-based discourse of Russian national identity that endured even as the empire of the tsars declined and fell and a new state replaced it.
            Russia generally finds itself beyond the purview of studies concerned with the ongoing potency of the classical world in modern society. Slavists, for their part, have only recently begun to note the influence of classical civilization not only during Russia’s neo-classical eighteenth century but also during its modernist period. With its interdisciplinary scope, Russia’s Rome fills a gap in both Russian studies and scholarship on the classical tradition, providing valuable material for scholars of Russian culture and history, classicists, and readers interested in the classical heritage.

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The Sacrificed Body

Balkan Community Building and the Fear of Freedom

by Tatjana Aleksic

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.

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Searching for Cioran

Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston. Edited by Kenneth R. Johnston; Foreword by Matei Calinescu

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.

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Sergei Dovlatov and His Narrative Masks

Young, Jekaterina

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.

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Silence and the Rest

Verbal Skepticism in Russian Poetry

Sofya Khagi

Sofya Khagi identifies a counter-tradition in Russian literature consisting of a philosophical and theological doubt in the efficacy of the word. Focusing on Mandelstam, Brodsky, and Kirbirov, Khagi offers an interpretation that illuminates new layers of meaning and ethical force in their work

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Singing the Self

Guitar Poetry, Community, and Identity in the Post-Stalin Period

Rachel S. Platonov

This book is a study of a Soviet cultural phenomenon of the 1960s and 70s known as guitar poetry – songs accompanied by guitar and considered poetry in much the same way as those of, for example, Bob Dylan. Platonov’s is the most comprehensive book in English to date to analyze guitar poetry, which has rarely received scholarly attention outside of Russia.

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Slavic Sins of the Flesh

Food, Sex, and Carnal Appetite in Nineteenth-Century Russian Fiction

Ronald D. LeBlanc

A pathbreaking “gastrocritical” approach to the poetics of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and their contemporaries This remarkable work by Ronald D. LeBlanc is the first study to appraise the representation of food and sexuality in the nineteenth-century Russian novel. Meticulously researched and elegantly and accessibly written, Slavic Sins of the Flesh sheds new light on classic literary creations as it examines how authors Nikolay Gogol, Ivan Goncharov, Grigorii Kvitka-Osnovyanenko, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Lev Tolstoy used eating in their works as a trope for male sexual desire. The treatment of carnal desire in these renowned works of fiction stimulated a generation of young writers to challenge Russian culture’s anti-eroticism, supreme spirituality, and utter disregard for the life of the body, so firmly rooted in centuries of ideological domination by the Orthodox Church.

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The Stony Dance

Unity and Gesture in Andrey Bely's Petersburg

Langen, Timothy

Widely considered the greatest Russian modernist novel, Andrei Bely's Petersburg has until now eluded the critical attention that a book of its caliber merits. In The Stony Dance, Timothy Langen offers readers a study of Bely's masterpiece unparalleled in its comprehensiveness, clarity, and inclusion of detail a critical study that is at the same time a meditation on the nature of literary art.

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