“Sophisticated Players”: Adults Writing as Children in the Stalin Era and Beyond
Zaitseva, Lusia A.
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CitationZaitseva, Lusia A. 2018. “Sophisticated Players”: Adults Writing as Children in the Stalin Era and Beyond. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation contributes to the growing field of children’s studies in and outside of Slavic studies by broadening the scope of the existing scholarly conversation beyond writing explicitly or ostensibly for children. Instead, I consider the role of childhood as both a theme and rhetorical stance in the writing of Kornei Chukovskii and Lidia Chukovsksaia, Osip and Nadezhda Mandelstam, and Boris Pasternak. Their use of the child was made possible by the pivotal role played by childhood in the forging of the new Soviet state and New Soviet Person. Building on historical scholarship as well as insights from queer theory, I show how these authors employ childhood to express something that is neither childlike nor childish, nor even child-oriented, as they negotiate their changing relationship to the Soviet state. I argue that what began as a modernist interest in childhood inherited from Romanticism took on new expressive possibilities in the Stalin era, which sought to model its adult citizenry after an image of passive and docile Soviet children as the population was made to adopt a childlike role vis-à-vis Stalin the Father. Chukovskii, Pasternak, and Osip Mandelstam explore these dynamics in their writings in order to articulate a critique of the state. Lidia Chukovskaia spoke of her own childhood and of her father as a child in her writings about him as she sought to wrest his legacy from the hands of the co-opting forces of the Soviet bureaucracy as well as to write herself back in to the social order. The afterward considers how Nadezhda Mandelstam amplified the specifically childlike quality of her husband’s oppositional stance as she wrote herself in as a part of the continuum of his poetry and life. Taken together, these authors operate as “sophisticated players,” demonstrating the potency of the signifier of the child to break down and resist, as well, as obscure, the personal, political, and aesthetic aims of those who deploy it.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41127400
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