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A History of Russian Literary Theory and Criticism

A History of Russian Literary Theory and Criticism: The Soviet Age and Beyond

EVGENY DOBRENKO
GALIN TIHANOV
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hjn1z
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    A History of Russian Literary Theory and Criticism
    Book Description:

    This volume assembles the work of leading international scholars in a comprehensive history of Russian literary theory and criticism from 1917 to the post-Soviet age. By examining the dynamics of literary criticism and theory in three arenas-political, intellectual, and institutional-the authors capture the progression and structure of Russian literary criticism and its changing function and discourse.The chapters follow early movements such as formalism, the Bakhtin Circle, Proletklut, futurism, the fellow-travelers, and the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers. By the cultural revolution of 1928, literary criticism became a mechanism of Soviet policies, synchronous with official ideology. The chapters follow theory and criticism into the 1930s with examinations of the Union of Soviet Writers, semantic paleontology, and socialist realism under Stalin. A more "humanized" literary criticism appeared during the ravaging years of World War II, only to be supplanted by a return to the party line, Soviet heroism, and anti-Semitism in the late Stalinist period. During Khrushchev's Thaw, there was a remarkable rise in liberal literature and criticism, that was later refuted in the nationalist movement of the "long" 1970s. The same decade saw, on the other hand, the rise to prominence of semiotics and structuralism. Postmodernism and a strong revival of academic literary studies have shared the stage since the start of the post-Soviet era.For the first time anywhere, this collection analyzes all of the important theorists and major critical movements during a tumultuous ideological period in Russian history, including developments in émigré literary theory and criticism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7744-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. NOTE ON TRANSLITERATION
    (pp. viii-viii)
  2. INTRODUCTION: TOWARD A HISTORY OF SOVIET AND POST-SOVIET LITERARY THEORY AND CRITICISM
    (pp. ix-xviii)
    EVGENY DOBRENKO and GALIN TIHANOV

    “We must perceive a past age as relatively unified if we are to write literary history; we must perceive it as highly diverse if what we write is to represent it plausibly”—this is how David Perkins formulates the dilemma of the literary historian.¹ That “plausible history,” however, has lost its previous appeal in recent years. Today, any book whose title begins with the wordhistoryis a risky undertaking, to say the least. A history in our days is written with didactic, commercial, or, in most cases, both didactic and commercial goals in mind. It might seem that with...

  3. 1 LITERARY CRITICISM DURING THE REVOLUTION AND THE CIVIL WAR, 1917–1921
    (pp. 1-16)
    STEFANO GARZONIO and MARIA ZALAMBANI

    The landscape of Russian criticism in the early post-October years is exceptionally variegated. Present throughout this period were almost all the artistic and literary trends, schools, and orientations of the previous era. They would come to be determined by their relationship to the October Revolution and the political ideology of the forces that initiated it, and the consequences for later literary debates would be substantial. This would prove the case not only for Marxist criticism, but for the literary views held by the revolutionary minded, left-wing intelligentsia as well as the rich critical tradition of the late populist movement (narodnichestvo)....

  4. 2 LITERARY CRITICISM AND CULTURAL POLICY DURING THE NEW ECONOMIC POLICY, 1921–1927
    (pp. 17-42)
    NATALIA KORNIENKO

    In no other period in the history of Russian literature did the political moment play such a decisive role for the fate of literature as during the years of the New Economic Policy (NEP). Literary criticism, too, reached an unprecedented level of importance during this very “current moment.” In fact this was theformativeperiod of the very institution of Soviet criticism. The “new course” of the Soviet state (in 1921 a series of Lenin’s articles and speeches on the issue of NEP were published under this headline) only applied to economic questions. The main ideological parameters of communist culture,...

  5. 3 LITERARY CRITICISM AND THE TRANSFORMATIONS OF THE LITERARY FIELD DURING THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION, 1928–1932
    (pp. 43-63)
    EVGENY DOBRENKO

    In the large body of literature on the time between 1917 and 1932 it has become the norm to regard this period as some kind of unified “age of the 1920s” that is associated with revolutionary culture. Revolutionary culture is contrasted with Stalinist culture, the beginning of which is defined as 1932, when all literary organizations were disbanded by decree of the Communist Party and the uniform Union of Soviet Writers was founded, the institutional basis of socialist realism.

    The fact that the years 1917 and 1932 constitute turning points in Soviet history is just as true as the fact...

  6. 4 LITERARY THEORY IN THE 1920s: FOUR OPTIONS AND A PRACTICUM
    (pp. 64-89)
    CARYL EMERSON

    In 2001, the prominent post-Soviet journal of scholarship in the humanities,Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie(New Literary Review,NLO), ran a retrospective forum on “1920–e gody kak intellektual’nyi resurs: V pole formalizma” (The 1920s as an Intellectual Resource: On the Field of Formalism).¹ The image of afield—conceptual field, gravitational field, minefield, battlefield—is well chosen for this decade, and Russian formalism is a most useful focus within it. The formalists (active 1916–1927) were arguably the most distinctive and original group of Russian literary theorists throughout the early Bolshevik years. Their “field of intellectual resources” was rich with...

  7. 5 SOVIET LITERARY CRITICISM AND THE FORMULATION OF THE AESTHETICS OF SOCIALIST REALISM, 1932–1940
    (pp. 90-108)
    HANS GÜNTHER

    The resolution of the Central Committee of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) “O perestroike literaturno-khudozhestvennykh organizatsii” (On the Restructuring of the Literary-Artistic Organisations) on 23 April 1932 marked the beginning of a new era in Soviet cultural history.¹ The liquidation of artistic associations and the creation of a single All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers prepared the ground for the canonization of the doctrine that became known as socialist realism. Socialist realism not only reflects the ideological goals of Stalinism, it is also deeply rooted in the worldview of the Stalinist period. After the stormy years of collectivization, the mobilization and...

  8. 6 SOVIET LITERARY THEORY IN THE 1930s: BATTLES OVER GENRE AND THE BOUNDARIES OF MODERNITY
    (pp. 109-143)
    KATERINA CLARK and GALIN TIHANOV

    In this chapter we explore the process of establishing a Soviet Marxist canon in aesthetics during the 1930s, the attending methodological polemics in left-leaning literary studies and cultural theory, as well as the trends that diverged from them. In the polemics of the 1930s genre became a foremost preoccupation; its role as a complex ideological instrument for conceptualizing reality and its significance as a battleground over the boundaries of modernity were highlighted in numerous discussions. We thus accord central attention to the debates on the novel, the epic, and the lyric and, therefore, to the authors aroundLiteraturnyi kritikand...

  9. 7 RUSSIAN ÉMIGRÉ LITERARY CRITICISM AND THEORY BETWEEN THE WORLD WARS
    (pp. 144-162)
    GALIN TIHANOV

    Writing the history of Russian émigré literary criticism and theory between the First and Second World Wars confronts us with a set of challenges. To begin with, we still know relatively little about the ways in which émigré writing began, over time, to interact with the various host cultures and what implications this interaction had for how émigré literature and criticism related to cultural and political processes in Soviet Russia. Earlier historians of Russian émigré culture, notably Mark Raeff, believed that “Russian literature in emigration remained as isolated from Western literatures as it had been in prerevolutionary Russia, perhaps even...

  10. 8 LITERARY CRITICISM AND THE INSTITUTION OF LITERATURE IN THE ERA OF WAR AND LATE STALINISM, 1941–1953
    (pp. 163-183)
    EVGENY DOBRENKO

    The war era can be divided into two periods: pre- and post-1943. In the first period, party control over literature was noticeably weakened; celebrations of the party and Stalin were muted, and literary policy, unaccompanied by noisy ideological campaigns, personal denunciations, and attacks, became more benign in comparison with the second half of the 1930s. In the initial period of World War II, Soviet ideology underwent an intensive internal reconstruction, which took the form of the peculiar coexistence of two distinct ideological models: the old one, under which the party alienated itself from the ordinary man, and the new, “humanized”...

  11. 9 LITERARY CRITICISM DURING THE THAW
    (pp. 184-206)
    EVGENY DOBRENKO and ILYA KALININ

    While the beginning of the post-Stalin era is clearly marked as March 1953, its end is less clearly defined. Although the political end of the Thaw was announced by the resolution of the October plenary session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1964 to remove Nikita Khrushchev from power, in many other respects the Thaw continued for another few years, for example in the sphere of economy with the Kosygin reforms and in international relations at least until the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. From the point of view of cultural...

  12. 10 LITERARY CRITICISM OF THE LONG 1970s AND THE FATE OF SOVIET LIBERALISM
    (pp. 207-229)
    MARK LIPOVETSKY and MIKHAIL BERG

    The debate on the function and tasks of literary criticism raged throughout the entire period of the “long” 1970s—from the changes in the political climate induced by the intervention in the Prague Spring to the early months of perestroika (1968–1985). In 1972 the Central Committee of the Communist Party issued a special decree titled “O literaturno-khudozhestvennoi kritike” (On Literary Criticism). The most important consequence of this decree was the foundation of the journalLiteraturnoe obozrenie, which doubtlessly became the best—and one of the most liberal—critical publications in the USSR and whose first editor in chief was...

  13. 11 DISCOVERIES AND ADVANCES IN LITERARY THEORY, 1960s–1980s: NEOFORMALISM, THE LINGUISTIC MODEL, AND BEYOND
    (pp. 230-249)
    WILLIAM MILLS TODD III

    The post-Stalin years in Soviet literary theory constitute a historical moment in the way that Roman Jakobson or Pierre Bourdieu have analyzed such synchronic slices, namely as force fields in which certain vectors are more vital and productive than others and where certain trajectories irrupt from the past and others will erupt into the future.¹ Nothing illustrates this phenomenon better than the works entitled “theory of literature” that appeared periodically throughout the 1960s–1980s, their titles recalling Boris Tomashevsky’s formalistTeoriia literatury: Poetika(Theory of Literature: Poetics; six editions, 1925–1931) and inviting comparisons with such non-Soviet volumes as René...

  14. 12 LITERARY CRITICISM AND THE END OF THE SOVIET SYSTEM, 1985–1991
    (pp. 250-268)
    BIRGIT MENZEL and BORIS DUBIN

    At the Twenty-Seventh Party Congress in 1986, which, as it turned out, was the ruling party’s penultimate, Mikhail Gorbachev, elected general secretary of the Central Committee of the CPUSSR a year ago, raised the question of broadening the policy of glasnost. The task of bringing about a “genuine revolution in consciousness” in the name of “creating a new life,” which the general secretary would proclaim in one and a half year’s time, was to a large degree entrusted to journal essays and literary criticism.¹ These genres were destined to become important instruments for the reappraisal of Soviet history, the cultural...

  15. 13 THE ALTER EGO: ÉMIGRÉ LITERARY CRITICISM FROM WORLD WAR II TO THE END OF THE SOVIET UNION
    (pp. 269-286)
    CATHARINE THEIMER NEPOMNYASHCHY

    World War II marked a watershed in the history of the Russian emigration and fundamentally altered the conditions and institutions that gave shape to its intellectual life. The conflict brought a second wave of emigration from Russia. Considerably smaller than the first, postrevolutionary wave, the second wave was made up of displaced people separated from their predecessors by decades of Soviet experience and, as a rule, less well educated and cosmopolitan. As the American historian of the emigration John Glad has put it: “While the second wave included a number of intellectuals, this group did not possess the ‘critical mass’...

  16. 14 POST-SOVIET LITERARY CRITICISM
    (pp. 287-305)
    ILYA KUKULIN and MARK LIPOVETSKY

    The 1990s were a decade when, for the first time in seventy years, Russian literature and criticism (outside of émigré or unofficial semi-underground circles) were able to develop without the censor’s interference. Most assessments of the literary output of this era (ranging from Andrei Nemzer’s “remarkable decade” to Alla Latynina’s “literary twilight”) agreed that the dissolution of “the literary process”—that is, the dissolution of a common ground where a variety of critical discourses intersect—was due to a dearth of acknowledged leading figures and aesthetic tendencies. The result was a shrinking critical space and a growing mutual disengagement among...

  17. 15 POST-SOVIET LITERARY STUDIES: THE REBIRTH OF ACADEMISM
    (pp. 306-322)
    NANCY CONDEE and EUGENIIA KUPSAN

    In the 1990s, three fundamental shifts took place in Russian academic and intellectual cultures, contributing to formations that were at the same time disruptive and newly determinate of one another. The first of these shifts concerned the forum for scholarship. As argued in the preceding chapter, journal culture for the academic, metropolitan intelligentsia in the decade following 1991 gradually ceased to be positioned at the very center of intellectual debates. Indeed, one of the paradoxes of the period is this: the moment when the ideological and logistical conditions permitted the launch of independent periodicals, responsive to the increasing diversity of...

  18. APPENDIX: TRANSLATED TITLES OF RUSSIAN PERIODICALS
    (pp. 323-328)