A History of Russian Literary Theory and Criticism

The Soviet Age and Beyond

This is a uniquely important book. Unique, because there is no other serious scholarly history that encompasses the whole spectrum of modern Russian literary theory and criticism. Important, because the schools and thinkers who are studied in this anthology have played a crucial role in shaping debates about literature and its relation to society all over the globe. The authors of the different chapters constitute a who's who of contemporary Slavic scholarship, and they cover every significant move from the October Revolution to the post-Soviet present, including emigre developments. No responsible student of modern literary theory can ignore this instant classic.
Michael Holquist, Yale University
Winner of the 2012 Efim Etkind Prize

This volume assembles the work of leading international scholars in a comprehensive history of Russian literary theory and criticism from 1917 to the post-Soviet age. By examining the dynamics of literary criticism and theory in three arenas—political, intellectual, and institutional—the authors capture the progression and structure of Russian literary criticism and its changing function and discourse.

The chapters follow early movements such as formalism, the Bakhtin Circle, Proletklut, futurism, the fellow-travelers, and the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers. By the cultural revolution of 1928, literary criticism became a mechanism of Soviet policies, synchronous with official ideology. The chapters follow theory and criticism into the 1930s with examinations of the Union of Soviet Writers, semantic paleontology, and socialist realism under Stalin. A more “humanized” literary criticism appeared during the ravaging years of World War II, only to be supplanted by a return to the party line, Soviet heroism, and anti-Semitism in the late Stalinist period. During KhrushchevÆs Thaw, there was a remarkable rise in liberal literature and criticism, that was later refuted in the nationalist movement of the “long” 1970s. The same decade saw, on the other hand, the rise to prominence of semiotics and structuralism. Postmodernism and a strong revival of academic literary studies have shared the stage since the start of the post-Soviet era.

For the first time anywhere, this collection analyzes all of the important theorists and major critical movements during a tumultuous ideological period in Russian history, including developments in émigré literary theory and criticism.

about the editors

Evgeny Dobrenko

Evgeny Dobrenko is professor and department head of Russian and Slavonic Studies at the University of Sheffield. He is author, editor, or coeditor of twenty books including The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Russian Literature and Soviet Culture and Power: A History in Documents, 1917-1953.

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Evgeny Dobrenko
Galin Tihanov

Galin Tihanov is the George Steiner Professor of Comparative Literature at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including The Master and the Slave: Luka’cs, Bakhtin, and the Ideas of Their Time and Enlightenment Cosmopolitanism.

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Galin Tihanov