Metamorphosis in Russian Modernism
Modern Russia has been shaped by Peter the Great's sudden attempt to transform it into a European country. Since shapeshifting and identity are so closely linked in Russian history, it is hardly surprising that metamorphosis is a prevalent - albeit hitherto neglected - theme in Russian literature. Metamorphoses in Russian Modernism provides the first detailed account of metamorphosis as a Russian theme, structuring principle, and source of artistic identity.
Barta examines how the magical transformations depicted in the ancient classics and in the oral epic heritage resonate in Russian literature and film at the fin de siècle and the early decades of the twentieth century - a period of dynamic change in Russian culture. Two hundred years after Peter's forceful westernization and facing its second crucial transformation in 1917, Russia witnessed the decay of classic realism and positivism and the rise of irrational philosophies, psychoanalysis, artistic experimentation, Marxism, as well as the birth of the new genre of film. This in-depth volume examines metamorphosis in the works of prominent representatives of the divided Russian intelligentsia: the Symbolists; the most famous émigré writer, Nabokov; Olesha, the 'fellow traveller' attempting to find his place in the Soviet state; the enthusiastic poet of the Bolshevik movement, Maiakovskii; and finally, Russia's greatest film director, Sergei Eisenstein.
The volume directs attention to the fact that Russia itself is a metamorph. The shapeshifter always retains features of previous identities and is sometimes capable of returning into previous forms; whether today's Russia will want to, or be able to do so, remains to be seen. It is futile to attempt to try to understand this civilisation - let alone predict its future - without considering the intellectual, social and emotional reasons why it is not at rest with itself. It is to this end that this volume hopes to make a contribution.
Introduction: Russian literature and the metamorphic theme
Part 1: Echo and Narcissus in Russian symbolism
Part 2: The transformation myth in Russian modernism
Part 3: Pythagoras and the butterfly: Nabokov's Ovidian metamorphosis
Part 4: Ovidian intertexts in Olesha's 'The Cherry Stone'
Part 5: Sansculotte improvisors and clouds in trousers: poetic metamorphosis in Pushkin and Maiakovskii
Part 6: Savage thinking: metamorphosis in the cinema of S.M. Eisenstein