Visions of the Future: Utopias and Anti-Utopias in Early Soviet Culture

Thursday, February 26, 2009
Programs for Teachers
Newberry Teachers' Consortium

In the decade after the October Revolution of 1917, in the invigorating and alarming atmosphere of scientific, technological, and political revolutions, Russian artists and writers sought to glimpse and creatively embody the promise that the future might hold.  The world was rapidly changing, and artists did not want to lag behind.  While some wished to stand in the vanguard of revolutionary transformations, others believed it was their duty to warn against the thoughtless embrace of various technological and political utopias.   In this seminar we will explore arrange of artistic responses– some positive, others negative, some reactionary, others inspired –to the radical socio-political experiment initiated by the nascent Soviet government and to the idea of a new, rationalistic, collectivist society that was in the air at the time and looked as if it could actually become a reality on Russian soil. We will read and discuss excerpts from the earliest anti-utopia of the twentieth century, Yevgeny Zamyatin?s novel /We/, along with some short utopian works by such diverse writers as Alexei Gastev and Velimir Khlebnikov.

Seminar led by Julia Vaingurt, University of Illinois at Chicago