HIS 383 • Modern Russian Culture
3:30 PM-6:30 PM
This semester we will concentrate on the history and politics of Soviet Socialist Realism in the Visual Arts: painting, photography, film, and architecture. We begin by examining the ways the social function of art was conceptualized before the 20th century. Then we will turn to the rise of Socialist Realism in the 1920s and 30s, the legacy of the avant garde, and the practice of visual arts production in the remainder of the Soviet period.
The literature on socialist realism has changed dramatically over the past decade as totalitarian interpretations of cultural politics ("the state made me do it") have given way to a variety of approaches drawing on revisionist historiography and structuralist, psychoanalytical, and post-modern theory, which explore the agency of artists, the complexity of utopianism, the survival of the avant garde in socialist realism, the importance of the audience, and the constant, high-stakes political negotiations that occurred between artists and the state. The purpose of this seminar is to familiarize students with the ways in which the visual arts were enlisted to serve state ends in the Soviet Union; to examine the various roles played by the arts in political and social life; and more broadly to learn to use visual materials in historical research, to think about the differences between visual and textual documents, and to place the arts in political and historical context. Russian language ability is not necessary.
Weekly reading and weekly short essays.
Reading includes: Katerina Clark, The Soviet Novel Boris Groys, The Total Art of Stalinism Abram Terts, On Socialist Realism Irina Gutkin, The Cultural Origins of the Socialist Realist Aesthetic Evgeny Dobrenko, The Political Economy of Socialist Realism Margarita Tupitsyn, The Soviet Photograph The Landscape of Stalinism: Ideology of Soviet Space Mike O'Mahony, Sport in the USSR: Physical Culture-Visual Culture John Berger, Art and Revolution M.C. Bown, Socialist Realist Painting Emma Widdis, Visions of a New Land: Soviet Film from Rev to World War Valerie Kivelson & Joan Neuberger, Picturing Russia: Explorations in Visual Culture