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Fall 2022 Comparative Literature: Russian GU4112 section 001
Decadent Desires and the Russian Silver
Decadent Desires

Call Number 15468
Day & Time
MW 1:10pm-2:25pm
To be announced
Points 3
Grading Mode Standard
Approvals Required None
Instructor Vadim Shkolnikov
Course Description The late nineteenth-century culture of “decadence” marks the moment when European literature and art decisively turn to the dark side.  Decadence loves to depict depravity and deviant behavior; it revels in sensuality, eroticism, libertinism, and immoralism; the aesthetics of madness and intoxication abound.  In this course we will explore how these decadent tendencies shaped the elegant and transgressive literary culture of Russia’s pre-revolutionary Silver Age.  The decadent predilection for self-destructive behavior and the pervasive sense of impending doom took on new meaning within the Russian cultural context, on the eve of the communist revolution. We will first survey the defining figures of European decadence: from Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil and the “accursed” French poets, to the radical lifestyle experiments of Huysmans and the bondage games of Sacher-Masoch.  Considerable attention will also be devoted to the enormous influence of Nietzsche’s philosophy—his iconic conceptions of Dionysian ecstasy, the Übermensch, and “beyond good and evil.”  In turn, our study of decadence in Russia will range from symbolist poets, chasing their ethereal “mysterious woman,” to major modernist novels: murder and madness in Sologub’s The Little Demon; Artsybashev’s sexually scandalous Sanin; Andrei Bely’s revolutionary masterpiece, Petersburg.  Along the way, we will also focus on issues such as:
  • symbolist theories of art and a new flowering of metaphysical philosophy in Russia
  • new attitudes toward sexuality, new theories of desire and the unconscious
  • the intellectual collaboration between literature and visual art
  • the coming of revolution and terrorist violence, as seen through the prism of decadence.
Web Site Vergil
Department Slavic Languages
Enrollment 1 student (25 max) as of 3:10PM Saturday, August 13, 2022
Subject Comparative Literature: Russian
Number GU4112
Section 001
Division Interfaculty
Campus Morningside
Section key 20223CLRS4112W001

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