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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


SL 20th Century: Self-Creation in 20th-Century Russian and Polish Culture

SL 20th Century: Self-Creation in Twentieth-Century Russian and Polish Culture

Course Convenor: Dr Rebecca Reich (, Section of Slavonic Studies

It was the Russian Formalist critics who first argued for drawing a line between a work of art and its biographical creator – a theory that has since become central to western criticism. But they also laid the groundwork for analysing how artists could fashion their lives in artistic ways. This module takes those theoretical strands as the starting point for an investigation of selfhood and storytelling across 20th-century Russian and Polish literature, film, and literary criticism. Profiling a range of authors and their autobiographical, deceptively autobiographical, or first-person works, it examines how some sought to insulate life from art, while others creatively conflated those categories. At the same time, it puts both theories into practice by exploring the works as self-contained texts and products of their political, social and cultural contexts. 
The module is open to students with a good knowledge of Russian.

Suggested Reading:

Engelstein, Laura, and Stephanie Sandler, eds. Self and Story in Russian History. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000.
Groys, Boris. The Total Art of Stalinism: Avant-Garde, Aesthetic Dictatorship, and Beyond. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.
Harris, Jane Gary. Autobiographical Statements in Twentieth-Century Russian Literature.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.  
Hellbeck, Jochen. Revolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary Under Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006.
Olney, James, ed. Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.
Paperno, Irina, and Joan Delaney Grossman, eds. Creating Life: The Aesthetic Utopia of Russian Modernism. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994.
Paperno, Irina. Stories of the Soviet Experience: Memoirs, Diaries, Dreams. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009.

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