Published: March 2020© 2020
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 592 Pages
Illustrations: 100 b&w illustrations
Dimensions: 6.30 x 9.20
592 Pages, 6.30 x 9.20 x 1.70 in, 100 b&w illustrations
Founded by Vladimir Lenin in 1919 to instigate a world revolution, the Comintern sought to advance not only the proletarian struggle but also a wide variety of radical causes, including fighting against imperialism and racism in settings as varied as Ireland, India, the United States, and China. Notoriously, and from the organization’s outset, these causes grew ever more subservient to Soviet state interest and Stalinist centralization.
Comintern Aesthetics shows how the cultural and political networks emerging from the Comintern have persisted, even after the Comintern’s demise in 1943. Tracing these networks through a multiplicity of artistic forms geared towards advancing a common, liberated humanity, this volume captures both the failure and the enduring allure of a Soviet-centred world revolution.
The sixteen chapters in this edited volume examine cultural and revolutionary circuits that once connected Moscow to China, Southeast Asia, India, the Near East, Eastern Europe, Germany, Spain, and the Americas. The Soviet Union of the interwar years provided a template for the convergence of party politics and cultural history, but the volume traces how this template was adapted and reworked around the world. By emphasizing the shared Soviet routes of these far-flung circuits, Comintern Aesthetics recaptures a long-lost moment in which cultures could not only transform perception but also highlight alternatives to capitalism – namely, an anti-colonial world imaginary foregrounding race, class, and gender equality.
List of Illustrations
Chronology: Comintern Aesthetics – Between Politics and Culture
Introduction: Comintern Aesthetics – Space, Form, History
Steven S. Lee
Part One. Space: Geopoetics, Networks, Translation
1. World Literature as World Revolution: Velimir Khlebnikov’s Zangezi and the Utopian Geopoetics of the Russian Avant-Garde
2. Berlin–Moscow–Shanghai: Translating Revolution across Cultures in the Aftermath of the 1927 Shanghai Debacle
3. India–England–Russia: The Comintern Translated
4. Seeing the World Anew: Soviet Cinema and the Reorganization of 1930s Spanish Film Culture
Enrique Fibla-Gutiérrez and Masha Salazkina
5. The Panorama and the Pilgrimage: Brazilian Modernism, the Masses, and the Soviet Union in the 1930s
Sarah Ann Wells
6. Polycentric Cosmopolitans: Writing World Literature in Indonesia and Vietnam, 1920s to 1950s and Beyond
Part Two. Form: Beyond Realism-versus-Modernism and Art-versus-Propaganda
7. Culture One and a Half
8. Street Theatre and Subject Formation in Wartime China: Origins of a New Public Art
9. In the Shadow of the Inquisition: The Spanish Civil War in Yiddish Poetry
Amelia M. Glaser
10. "Beaten, but Unbeatable": On Langston Hughes’s Black Leninism
11. A Comintern Aesthetics of Anti-racism in the Animated Short Film Blek end uait
Part Three. History: Beyond the Interwar Years – Afterlives of Comintern Aesthetics
12. The Revolutionary Romanticism of Alice Childress’s "Conversations from Life"
13. When Comintern and Cominform Aesthetics Meet: Socialist Realism in Eastern Europe, 1956 and Beyond
14. Visions of the Future: Soviet Art, Architecture, and Film during and after the Comintern Years
Vladimir Paperny and Marina Khrustaleva
15. Comintern Media Experiments, Leftist Exile, and World Literature from East Berlin
16. Workers of the World, Unite!
Steven S. Lee and Amelia M. Glaser
"This is the best collection of essays this reviewer has read in recent years. It has been doomed to success by its very conception—an account of the body of cultural production, and especially literature, inspired and in some cases enabled, by the international communist movement."Rossen Djagalov, The Russian Review, Vol. 80, No. 3
"Comintern Aesthetics is a brilliant collection that will immediately become a definitive work on the subject. The book is the first ever global study of Comintern aesthetics and is full of critical surprises, insights, and innovations. The geographic scope of the book, from Southeast Asia to Central Europe, is truly dazzling."Bill Mullen, Department of English, Purdue University
"Important and timely, Comintern Aesthetics draws attention to global aesthetic connections and sensibilities inspired and fostered by the Communist utopia, with its ideas of liberation, decolonization, and self-government. This volume will generate a long overdue discussion of the historical legacy of Communism that is not overdetermined by the idioms and assumptions of the Cold War."Serguei Alex Oushakine, Department of Anthropology and Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University