Sex, Saints, Satanism, Savagery and Synaesthesia: The Seamy Side of the Silver Age in Russian Culture
The culture of the Silver Age in Russia, from the 1880s to the Revolution, was described by its detractors as “Decadence,” and many of the figures involved accepted the label. This was not just a thoughtless enjoyment of scandal: the Russian Symbolists were a seriously philosophical group, and all of these S-words had a place in their world-view. This course looks at prose and poetry, painting and music, both naughty and nice but always in some sense serious, in the three decades before the Russian Revolution. The material covered will include prose by Leonid Andreev (The Thought, 1902), Andrei Belyi (Petersburg, 1911-21), Artsybashev (Sanin, 1904-07), Sologub (The Petty Demon, 1902-05), poetry by Blok, Balmont, Briusov, Ivanov and others, selections from the philosophy of Vladimir Soloviev, Nikolai Berdiaev and Viacheslav Ivanov, paintings of Vrubel, Roerich and Bakst, and music of Stravinsky and Skriabin. Readings are in English, but students who can read the Russian originals are encouraged to do so, and students familiar with the contemporary culture of Europe are particularly welcome.