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This workshop will explore modernist innovation in Russian literature and visual art during the 1910s and provide a link between aesthetic and political developments. The Russian Revolution of 1917 changed much more than “just” the political system. As an aesthetic and social experiment on a major scale, it constituted an attempt at creating a completely new culture from scratch, as well as a new human being – the “Soviet Man”. Those writers and artists who enthusiastically welcomed the revolution interpreted it as a culmination – or incarnation – of the developments that had irrevocably transformed Russian (and European) art during the 1910s, with movements such as Cubism and Futurism challenging perception in entirely new ways. What did writers and artists of the 1910s expect of their audiences? And why was modernist art in Russia susceptible to revolutionary fervour? This workshop explores Russian revolutionary aesthetics through the works of Belyi, Blok, Mayakovsky, Khlebnikov, Malevich and other key modernists.

Workshop format: The day will be split into two lectures, one on the origin of Russian Futurism in pre-revolutionary culture and the link between text and image, and the second one on the fate of the avant-garde after the revolution. Each lecture will be followed by a workshop-style discussion, focussing on poems, prose extracts, images and key questions.

Who is this workshop suitable for: This workshop is open to everyone with an interest and desire to learn more. No previous skills, knowledge or experience is required. Reading knowledge of Russian is a plus, but all extracts will be provided in both Russian and English translation.

Recommended reading or viewing: A list of recommended reading and viewing will be provided ahead of the date, but knowledge of these sources is not mandatory for participation. Relevant extracts will be provided on the day.

Refreshments: Tea and biscuits will be provided at the start of each session. Participants should make their own lunch arrangements.

Josephine is Lecturer in Russian at the University of Cambridge, having previously held research and teaching appointments at Oxford and Bristol universities. A specialist in 20th century poetry, she is the author of Poetry and the Leningrad Religious-Philosophical Seminar 1976-1980: Music for a Deaf Age (Legenda/MHRA and Routledge, 2016), which investigates the impact of modernist aesthetics on late 20th century poets, and numerous articles on underground literature in the late Soviet Union. Her new book, The Culture of Samizdat: Literature and Underground Networks in the Late Soviet Union, is forthcoming in 2020.