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The End of The Soviet Baroque: Historical Poetics in Olesha’s Envy and Tynianov’s The Wax Person

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The term Soviet Baroque was coined by Viktor Shklovsky in 1929 to describe the aesthetic and theoretical tendencies of the left art of the 1920s – a generation of revolutionary artists to which he himself belongs. Shklovsky understands Baroque not as a specific historical style, but as the aesthetics of “intensive detail” and nonsychronous conception of history. With the onset of the Stalinist ideology and of the Five-Year Plan era’s optimism in the legibility of progress, Shklovsky becomes openly critical of the Soviet Baroque and his former artistic allies who espouse it. In this article I analyze the Soviet Baroque as an extension of a broader tendency that falls in line with the tradition of Historical Poetics and draw on several examples from Yuri Olesha’s Envy and Yuri Tynianov’s The Wax Person that I consider illustrative of this tendency.

Affiliations: 1: New York University,


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