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The Villain from Early Soviet Literature to Socialist Realism
Satire and the fantastic, vital literary genres in the 1920s, are often thought to have fallen victim to the official adoption of socialist realism. Eric Laursen contends that these subversive genres did not just vanish or move underground. Instead, key strategies of each survive to sustain the villain of socialist realism. Laursen argues that the judgment of satire and the hesitation associated with the fantastic produce a narrative obsession with controlling the villain’s influence. In identifying a crucial connection between the questioning, subversive literature of the 1920s and the socialist realists, Laursen produces an insightful revision of Soviet literary history.
“…adds to the significant body of scholarship that, in the wake of Katerina Clark’s seminal The Soviet Novel: History as Ritual (1981), has confirmed both the complexity and the cultural significance of socialist realism. Rather than focusing on the movement’s larger-than-life heroes, as Clark did, Eric Laursen turns to its villains to explore nuances in the spontaneity-consciousness dialectic that reveal the enemy’s pivotal position in the archetypal socialist realist plot: ‘If the hero accomplishes the great deed that moves Soviet society closer to Communism, the villain’s example transforms the hero so that he can imagine this bright future and act to bring it about’.” —Slavic Review
"Spanning science fiction, theatrical satire, and the production novel, Laursen’s eclectic choice of literary works brings about an equally eclectic approach, combining close textual reading with a more far-reaching consideration of the evolution of satire and the fantastic in early Soviet letters. Laursen’s decision to focus almost exclusively on literary texts departs from the recent trend in scholarship on socialist realism . . . Laursen’s study will find its readership among historians and scholars of early Soviet literature." —Slavic Review