Slavic 131: Literature, Art, and Society in 20-Century Russia: The European Avant-garde: From Futurism to Surrealism

MWF 3-4, 258 Dwinelle. Instructor: Harsha Ram.

Units: 4 Satisfies L&S Arts & Literature breadth requirement.

Cross-listed with Comparative Literature 155, Section 1.

The literary and artistic avant-garde of the early twentieth century was the most radical expression of European modernism in literature and art. We will be focusing on the four most forceful and creative of the literary movements to have swept through Europe between the 1910’s and the 1930’s: Italian and Russian futurism, dada in Zurich and Paris, Soviet constructivism, and French surrealism. We will be reading (and sometimes performing!) avant-garde poetry, literary manifestoes, short performance texts, experimental fiction and memoirs. We will also be paying some attention to parallel developments in the visual arts and cinema.

Topics for discussion include literature and revolutionary politics, tradition and modernity, theoretical metalanguage and its relationship to artistic practice, poetic experimentation, the relationship of sound to meaning, the limits of art, the cult of technology, literature and utopia, the rise of mass culture, and the relationship of writing to theories of the unconscious.

Writers and artists include: Filippo Marinetti, Valentine de Saint-Point, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Velimir Khlebnikov, Vladimir Tatlin, El Lissitsky, Sergei Eisenstein, Leon Trotsky, Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball, Andre Breton, and Sigmund Freud.

Texts to be purchased:
Futurist Manifestos, ed. Umbro Apollonio
Bedbug and Selected Poetry, Vladimir Mayakovsky
Collected Works of Velimir Khlebnikov, Velimir Khlebnikov, Vol. 3
Paris Peasant, Louis Aragon

All remaining texts will be provided in a reader.

Prerequisites:  none.