Experiments in Living:
Twentieth-Century Russian Literature and Culture
RUSS 252 • Prof. Julia Chadaga
"Art is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer to shape it" - Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930)
"Once there was a red-headed man without eyes and without ears. He had no hair either, so he was called a redhead arbitrarily. He could not speak, for he had no mouth. He had no nose either. He didn't even have arms or legs. He had no stomach either, and he had no back, and he had no spine, and no intestines of any kind. He didn't have anything at all. So it is hard to understand whom we are really talking about. So it is probably best not to talk about him any more." - Daniil Kharms (1905-1942)
In the twentieth century, political and artistic revolutions in Russia had repercussions far beyond the nation’s borders; we can still feel the effects to this day. How do artists respond to, interpret, and shape historical events? How did writers in twentieth-century Russia transmute fear, violence, and chaos into art? We will consider how provocateurs and innovators such as Mayakovsky, Akhmatova, Babel, Zoshchenko, Bulgakov, Solzhenitsyn, Brodsky, Pelevin, and Tolstaya ushered in new ways of seeing and explored the relationship between art and ideology, exile and creativity, laughter and subversion, memory and survival, individual psychology and historical cataclysm. All reading and discussion will be in English.
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