Slavic 280, Section 2: Internationalist Aesthetics: Soviet Culture and the World

Th 4-7, Dwinelle 6115. Instructor: Edward Tyerman.

Units: 4

This seminar seeks to explore the relationship between Soviet culture and the broader phenomenon of socialist internationalism in the 20th century. Readings will include Soviet writers who wrote about the wider world through an internationalist lens (Vladimir Mayakovsky, Vsevolod Ivanov, Isaac Babel, Boris Pil’niak, Sergei Tret’iakov), as well as non-Soviet writers who responded in various ways to the Soviet project and its international implications (including Walter Benjamin, Claude McKay, and Langston Hughes). Soviet cinema’s representation of international revolution (Bliokh’s Shanghai Document, Eisenstein’s Que Viva Mexico, Kalatozov’s Soy Cuba) will be juxtaposed with international responses to Soviet cinema. We will consider Soviet attempts to create a world literary system, such as the publishing house World Literature and the journal International Literature, and processes of cultural exchange and diplomacy that developed in the context of the Cold War, including the Sino-Soviet alliance and subsequent Sino-Soviet Split. Lastly, we will examine the development of the Soviet literary system through the lens of writers from peripheral republics (Chingiz Aitmatov, Yurii Rytkheu, Fazil Iskander), as part of a distinctive Soviet experiment in creating a multinational literature. Theoretical readings will consider conceptions of socialist internationalist culture in the context of contemporary debates around world literature and cosmopolitanism.


Prerequisites: Permission of instructor. Knowledge of Russian not required.