'Post-Soviet neo-modernism' : an approach to 'postmodernism' and humour in the post-Soviet Russian fiction of Vladimir Sorokin, Vladimir Tuchkov and Aleksandr Khurgin
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The present work analyses the fiction of the post-Soviet Russian writers, Vladimir Sorokin, Vladimir Tuchkov and Aleksandr Khurgin against the background of the notion of post-Soviet Russian postmodernism. In doing so, it investigates the usefulness and accuracy of this very notion, proposing that of ‘post-Soviet neo-modernism’ instead. Common critical approaches to post-Soviet Russian literature as being postmodern are questioned through an examination of the concept of postmodernism in its interrelated historical, social, and philosophical dimensions, and of its utility and adequacy in the Russian cultural context. In addition, it is proposed that the humorous and grotesque nature of certain post-Soviet works can be viewed as a creatively critical engagement with both the past, i.e. Soviet ideology, and the present, the socially tumultuous post-Soviet years. Russian modernism, while sharing typologically and literary-historically a number of key characteristics with Western modernism, was particularly motivated by a turning to the cultural repository of Russia’s past, and a metaphysical yearning for universal meaning transcending the perceived fragmentation of the tangible modern world. Continuing the older Russian tradition of resisting rationalism, and impressed by the sense of realist aesthetics failing the writer in the task of representing a world that eluded rational comprehension, modernists tended to subordinate artistic concerns to their esoteric convictions. Without appreciation of this spiritual dimension, semantic intention in Russian modernist fiction may escape a reader used to the conventions of realist fiction. It is suggested that contemporary Russian fiction as embodied in certain works by Sorokin, Tuchkov and Khurgin, while stylistically exhibiting a number of features commonly regarded as postmodern, such as parody, pastiche, playfulness, carnivalisation, the grotesque, intertextuality and self-consciousness, seems to resume modernism’s tendency to seek meaning and value for human existence in the transcendent realm, as well as in the cultural, in particular literary, treasures of the past. The closeness of such segments of post-Soviet fiction and modernism in this regard is, it is argued, ultimately contrary to the spirit of postmodernism and its relativistic and particularistic worldview. Hence the suggested conceptualisation of post-Soviet Russian fiction as ‘neo-modernist’.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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