Relations Lit and Other Arts
The Russian Empire and its successor states constitute the largest unified contiguous territory in the world while also being one of the most ethnically diverse. From the Caucasus to Ukraine and the Baltics, Central Asia, Siberia, and the Far East, Russia-Eurasia contains numerous peripheral regions, even as it arguably constitutes a semi-peripheral region with respect to the West. Just as the Soviet Union constituted the core of the “second world” during the Cold War, so today post-Soviet space complicates the recent binary division of the globe into North and South. Russia-Eurasia thus offers a unique historical paradigm that combines empire-building, developmentalist state socialism, anti-colonialism, and post-Soviet nationalisms. This seminar seeks to deploy theoretical insights into peripherality as a means to explore the literary and cultural dynamics that have emerged in the peripheral spaces of Russia-Eurasia. Beginning with theoretical readings in world-systems theory, world literature, area studies, and imperial history, the seminar will follow a historically driven and geographically grounded arc through various regions from the nineteenth- century heyday of empire to contemporary post-socialism. Our aim will be to provide participants with the tools to research literary and cultural processes in specific regions of Eurasia within a series of historical core-periphery relations, including Imperial conceptions of nationhood and a vast Soviet
state-sanctioned project of world literature and translation unequalled anywhere else in the world. Our goal will be to historicize the dynamics of literature, even as we remain attentive to the ways in which literature in turn gives form to history, drawing on aesthetic resources that exceed the contemporary. We also envisage a workshop on Eurasian Peripheries to take place under the auspices of ISEEES in Fall 2022 that will incorporate student research emerging from this seminar. Theoretical and historical readings include Boris Kagarlitsky, Giovanni Arrighi, Immanuel Wallerstein, Franco Moretti, the Warwick Research Collective, and Andreas Kappeler. Literary readings will move between select nineteenth-century works of Russian literature and texts of national cultural revival in Georgian, Ukrainian Kazakh and Uzbek. The final weeks of the course will be devoted to select works of late-Soviet and post-Soviet literature such as Rasputin, Aitmatov, Rytkheu,
Ismailov, and Ganieva. Knowledge of Russian is required; all materials will be provided via bCourses.