Every Step a New Movement: Anarchism in the Stalin-Era Literature of the Absurd and Its Post-Soviet Adaptations
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CitationAizman, Ania. 2017. Every Step a New Movement: Anarchism in the Stalin-Era Literature of the Absurd and Its Post-Soviet Adaptations. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the politics of the 1920s-1940s Literature of the Absurd and its late- and post-Soviet reception. I show that Andrei Platonov and the writers associated with the OBERIU group (Alexander Vvedensky, in particular) explored anarchist ideas in their work. This absurdist, early-Soviet “anarchist aesthetic,” I argue, is precisely what has attracted their late- and post-Soviet inheritors, who range from academic philosophers, to urban and provincial theater-makers, to the punk activist group, Pussy Riot. Artists and thinkers who searched for new models of critique and, ultimately, a foundation for creating today’s political art, turned – and continue to turn – to the Stalin-era Literature of the Absurd.
The first chapter shows that contemporary Russian philosophers (from Valery Podoroga to the members of the Chto Delat group) have written about the Literature of the Absurd as part of a project to revitalize Russian philosophy after Perestroika. In the next two chapters, I trace back to the sources themselves, and offer readings of Platonov and Vvedensky, respectively. In Chapter Two, I show that, in his 1919-1922 essays, partly in response to the anarchist thinker Peter Kropotkin, Platonov developed an anarchist critique of the Stalinist project as well as of labor and the state. I discuss the persistent representations of temporary autonomous communities in Platonov’s later prose and drama. In Chapter Three, I write that Vvedensky, whom the Oberiuty called the “extreme left” of their artistic association, captured in his writing a collective subjectivity that refuses work and representation, whether aesthetic or political. I argue that, in their Stalin-era performances and texts, the Oberiuty were responding to avant-garde anarchist artists (prominently, to Kazimir Malevich). The final chapter traces the influence of anarchist ideas and absurdist aesthetics on late- and post-Soviet performance. Based on interviews with artists, actors, and directors, on performance-based analyses of productions, and on findings in theater archives, this chapter explores connections between the anarchist tradition and the tradition of performance in Russia.
I suggest that the theatrical adaptations of the Stalin-era absurd, described in the last chapter, and its philosophical adaptations, described in the first, are part of a broader renaissance of anarchism in contemporary Russian culture. In considering modes of transmission and adaptation of anarchism in philosophy, art, and literature, I contribute to the nascent field of anarchist criticism.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42061498
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