CFP: Varieties of Russian Realism – ACLA (UCLA)

Deadline for Applications: September 21, 2017 9:00 a.m. EST

The University of California at Los Angeles writes to invite CREEES affiliates to submit brief abstracts to its ACLA seminar, to be held at UCLA March 29-April 1. Abstracts are due September 21 at 9:00 EST. Please see the website for more information.

Seminar proposal: Varieties of Russian Realism: Medium, Genre, and Form in the Nineteenth-Century Russian Arts

The term “Russian realism” can be taken to encompass a wide variety of genres and media of  art, from short prose forms such as the short story, zapiska, ocherk, and povest’, to the novel, as well as painting, poetry, drama, and perhaps more. But what does it mean to refer to these various kinds of representational art as realist? The guiding question of this seminar is: what is the relationship between realism as an artistic practice and medium, genre, and form? How does the meaning of realism change across media or genres? Taking a cue from Molly Brunson’s recent Russian Realisms, one might ask, how many Russian realisms are there? Is the realism of one medium basically the same as that of another, or are there crucial differences in these different practices of realism? If these realisms are fundamentally the same, what unites them and distinguishes them from non-realism? If they are different, then how do the particular representational capacities of different media or forms modify what realism is and what it can do? The goal of this seminar is to bring new perspectives to some of the most durable critical commonplaces in the study of the Russian arts in the nineteenth century. In the process, we might attempt to disentangle the links joining the concept of Russian realism to the Russian novel. Is this connection merely a matter of historical contingency, or is there something about the novel—such as its anti-conventional or anti-generic structure, its unique formal capaciousness and adaptability, or its concern with the representation of everyday life—that privileges it among other kinds of realist art?

Whatever the answer, these novels were produced, disseminated, and read in an environment that accommodated various genres and media. The age of the great Russian realist novels is also the age of their serialization in the thick journals alongside numerous other genres of writing, including shorter fictional forms, various kinds of journalism and scholarship, and poetry, as well as the age of new directions in Russian painting. These considerations might prompt additional questions: what is the relationship between literary realism and various modes of consuming art, such as the kinds of reading conditioned by serialization? How does realism change in accordance with the different institutions of various nineteenth-century Russian arts? What are the politics of realism, and do these differ across media or forms? Fredric Jameson has suggested that literary realism is fundamentally conservative due to its reliance on a stable, communicable social reality. But what about those forms of realist practice that expanded the range of what was possible and permissible for representation?

This seminar welcomes submissions on topics that address these questions and related topics. Participants would ideally examine a range of media and genres including, but not limited to, those mentioned above.

Please email questions to