Automatic for the Masses: The Death of the Author and the Birth of Socialist Realism

By Petre M. Petrov

© 2015

At the end of the 1920s, the Modernist and avant-garde artistic programmes of the early Soviet Union were swept away by the rise of Stalinism and the dictates of Socialist Realism. Did this aesthetic transition also constitute a conceptual break, or were there unseen continuities between these two movements? In Automatic for the Masses, Petre M. Petrov offers a novel, theoretically informed account of that transition, tracing those connections through Modernist notions of agency and authorship.

Reading the statements and manifestos of the Formalists, Constructivists, and other Soviet avant-garde artists, Petrov argues that Socialist Realism perpetuated in a new form the Modernist “death of the author.” In interpreting this symbolic demise, he shows how the official culture of the 1930s can be seen as a perverted realization of modernism’s unrealizable project. An insightful and challenging interpretation of the era, Automatic for the Masses will be required reading for those interested in understanding early Soviet culture.

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Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 328 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.0in x 9.3in
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  • PUBLISHED MAR 2015

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    ISBN 9781442648425
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    Regular Price: $81.00

Quick Overview

In Automatic for the Masses, Petre M. Petrov offers a novel, theoretically informed account of the transition from modernism to Socialist Realism, tracing their connections through Modernist notions of agency and authorship.

Automatic for the Masses: The Death of the Author and the Birth of Socialist Realism

By Petre M. Petrov

© 2015

At the end of the 1920s, the Modernist and avant-garde artistic programmes of the early Soviet Union were swept away by the rise of Stalinism and the dictates of Socialist Realism. Did this aesthetic transition also constitute a conceptual break, or were there unseen continuities between these two movements? In Automatic for the Masses, Petre M. Petrov offers a novel, theoretically informed account of that transition, tracing those connections through Modernist notions of agency and authorship.

Reading the statements and manifestos of the Formalists, Constructivists, and other Soviet avant-garde artists, Petrov argues that Socialist Realism perpetuated in a new form the Modernist “death of the author.” In interpreting this symbolic demise, he shows how the official culture of the 1930s can be seen as a perverted realization of modernism’s unrealizable project. An insightful and challenging interpretation of the era, Automatic for the Masses will be required reading for those interested in understanding early Soviet culture.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 328 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.0in x 9.3in
  • Reviews

    ‘This provocative monograph, with its thorough scholarship, original argument, and witty writing, should appeal to students of European and Soviet modernism as well as specialists in cultural history and theory.’


    Alexander Prokhorov
    The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review vol 44:2017

    Automatic for the Masses is a cogent, informative, and perceptive discussion of the author’s proverbial death in early Soviet culture and socialist realism. The theoretical thrust of the book is both compelling and groundbreaking – like any good theorist should do, Petrov makes complex ideas seem straightforward and clear.”
    Tim Harte, Department of Russian, Bryn Mawr College

    Automatic for the Masses takes a refreshingly original approach to the study of socialist realism. Sophisticated and savvy, it is a must read for all with a serious interest in Soviet culture.”


    Katerina Clark, Department of Comparative Literature and Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Yale University
  • Author Information

    Petre M. Petrov is an assistant professor of Russian at the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Table of contents

    Introduction

    Part I

    1. The Imperative of Artistic Form

    2. The Imperative of Social Content

    3. Organization

    4. Demanding Objecthood

    5. Demanding Subjecthood

    Part II

    6. The Anonymous Center

    7. The Unbearable Light of Being

    8. Ideology as Authentication

    9. The Blind, the Seeing, and the Shiny

    10. Life Happens

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