Metamorphosis in Russian Modernism

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Modern Russia has been shaped by Peter the Great's sudden attempt to transform it into a European country. Since shapeshifting and identity are so closely linked in Russian history, the same theme of metamorphosis is prevalent in Russian literature and is examined here as a Russian theme, structuring principle and source of artistic identity. Barta examines the magical transformations depicted in the ancient classics and in the oral epic heritage resonate in Russian literature and film at the fin de siecle and the early decades of the 20th century - a period of dynamic change in Russian culture. Two hundred years after Peter's forceful westernization and facing its second crucial transformation in 1917, Russia witnessed the decay of classic realism and positivism and the rise of irrational philosophies, psychoanalysis, artistic experimentation, Marxism, as well as the birth of the new genre of film. Metamorphosis is examined in the works of prominent representatives of the divided Russian intelligentsia: the Symbolists; the most famous emigre writer, Nabokov; Olesha, the fellow traveller attempting to find his place in the Soviet state; the enthuiastic poet of the Bolshevik movement, Mayakovski; and finally, the great Russian film director, Sergei Eisenstein.