Man builds and gets destroyed himself: Aesthetics of the sublime in Soviet Russian Literature
This is a multidisciplinary project at the crossroads of Russian cultural history, post-Soviet studies, literary theory, aesthetics, and philosophy. The purpose of the project proposed is to study the aesthetics of the sublime in selected works in Soviet Russian Literature. In reverse, the project also poses the question how the literatures of Soviet Russia will contribute to our understanding of the sublime and its influence on modern literature.The underlying hypothesis is that different modes of the aesthetics of the sublime can be identified in the history of interpretations of the sublime, and that these different modes can be highlighting for our understanding and categorization of different politics of representations and literary practices in the USSR. The distinction that I make is between what I call the heroic sublime of the Soviet official literary canon and the tragic sublime in the works of writers as Pilnyak and Platonov. The latter stayed in the Soviet Union, and more or less formed a part of the revolutionary or Soviet prose in the twenties, but they subsequently became repressed in the thirties, and they are now enjoying a widespread international renaissance. Previously, the sublime has mainly been studied as part of the grandeur of Soviet socialist construction, but this study will show that a special understanding of the sublime also underlies a tragic understanding of the Soviet construction. To quote Andrei Platonov’s existential remark disclosing the destructive effect of “construction” on man: “Man builds, and gets destroyed himself”. A common theme in both the works of Soviet official literary canon and in the works of Pilnyak and Platonov is the reception of the Revolution as a sublime moment, but the understanding of the aesthetic means of appropriating this experience differs.