Russia's Long Revolution: a Survey of Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Russian Culture
Cross-listed as RUSS204 / COMP204
With the one-hundredth anniversary of Russia’s October Revolution just behind us and the uncertain future of post-Soviet Russia unfolding before us, we can now take stock of the long century of revolutions in art, politics, and society that has brought Russia to Putin. This course takes a comprehensive look at twentieth- and twenty-first-century Russian culture, focusing on the literature, film, theater, and visual art that defined this transformative period in Russia’s modern history. Students will explore the radical aesthetic and political ideas that motivated this change, especially the utopian visions of the Russian avant-garde and early-Soviet Marxists, as well as key works that examine the tragic consequences of the failures of these revolutionary experiments for those who, willing or not, became their active participants. As we move on to the late-Soviet years, we will consider the emergence of a new, “conceptualist” avant-garde, which attempted to dismantle Soviet ideology and the totalitarian logic they attributed to the historical avant-garde using postmodern aesthetics. We will conclude the course by surveying literature, film, and performance that capture the traumatic experience of Russia’s transition to market capitalism in the 1990s and its slide into authoritarian “stability” under Putin. Readings include works by Babel, Bulgakov, Platonov, Pasternak, Nabokov, Solzhenitsyn, Prigov, Pelevin, Sorokin, and recent Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich. Films screenings include the cinema of avant-garde masters Eisenstein and Vertov. All readings are in English.
The Class: Type: mixed lecture/discussion
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, discussion leading, papers
Enrollment Preference: declared or prospective Russian or Comparative Literature majors
Distributions: Division I;
Attributes: GBST Russian + Eurasian Studies Electives