Topic Course Title
20th-Century Russian Literature (in translation): Private Lives in Public Times
Topic Course Description
This course examines the literature produced in Russia and the Soviet Union from the beginning of the twentieth century until the 1960s. At a time when revolution was brewing in society, Russian literature also underwent radical changes as writers sought to break with the realism that dominated the nineteenth century. While the revolutionary nature of Russian avant-garde art at this time seemed to coincide with the revolutionary forces at work in the social and political structure, it soon fell victim to the emerging totalitarian regime and the rigid demands of Socialist Realism. Creative forces continued to thrive underground, however, and the literary output of these decades gives pointed evidence of the vitality of art even in times of oppression. As a result, the best Russian literature in the twentieth century became not only an expression of dissent, but also a tool of reform, engaging the critical conflict between the pursuit of personal self-expression and the demand for ideological conformity. As such, these works illustrate the crucial role literature plays in the development of national identity and social conscience.
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