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In Search of Russian Modernism

, 392 pages

2 b&w illus.

November 2018



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In Search of Russian Modernism


The writing and teaching of Russian literary and cultural history have changed little since the 1980s. In Search of Russian Modernism challenges the basic premises of Russian modernist studies, removing the aura of certainty surrounding the analytical tools at our disposal and suggesting audacious alternatives to the conventional ways of thinking and speaking about Russian and transnational modernism.

Drawing on methodological breakthroughs in Anglo-American new modernist studies, Leonid Livak explores Russian and transnational modernism as a story of a self-identified and self-conscious interpretive community that bestows a range of meanings on human experience. Livak's approach opens modernist studies to integrative and interdisciplinary analysis, including the extension of scholarly inquiry beyond traditional artistic media in order to account for modernism's socioeconomic and institutional history.

Writing with a student audience in mind, Livak presents Russian modernism as a minority culture coexisting with other cultural formations while addressing thorny issues that regularly come up when discussing modernist artifacts. Aiming to open an overdue debate about the academic fields of Russian and transnational modernist studies, this book is also intended for an audience of scholars in comparative literary and cultural studies, specialists in Russian and transnational modernism, and researchers engaged with European cultural historiography.

Leonid Livak is a professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Anne Tannenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. He is the author of How It Was Done in Paris: Russian Émigré Literature and French Modernism, The Jewish Persona in the European Imagination: A Case of Russian Literature, and Russian Émigrés in the Intellectual and Literary Life of Interwar France: A Bibliographical Essay.

"Livak's book, written in a lively and engaging tone, will be a powerful intervention in an important field that is in need of reinvigoration. Each chapter represents a fresh argument. Livak boldly contests long-established prejudices while building impressively on his previous work on Russian emigration."

"Livak’s book is a thorough revision of conceptual frameworks that informed the study of Russian literary modernism for decades. By exposing deficiencies of terminological apparatus, chronology, and dominant visions of modernism’s interaction with contemporaneous ideological and aesthetic systems, Livak’s study productively remaps Russian modernism as a subject of scholarly investigation."

"Leonid Livak’s book accomplishes two important tasks: it maps the variegated and factionalized world of Russian modernism at home and abroad and, with the concept of 'communities of modernist culture,' it offers a compelling way to overcome the methodological impasse that has bedeviled modernist studies for generations. A double victory."

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