Beyond the Flesh: Alexander Blok, Zinaida Gippius, and the Symbolist Sublimation of Sex

Hardcover | November 7, 2008

byJenifer Presto

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Though the Russian Symbolist movement was dominated by a concern with transcending sex, many of the writers associated with the movement exhibited an intense preoccupation with matters of the flesh. Drawing on poetry, plays, short stories, essays, memoirs, and letters, as well as feminist and psychoanalytic theory, Beyond the Flesh documents the often unexpected form that this obsession with gender and the body took in the life and art of two of the most important Russian Symbolists.
            Jenifer Presto argues that the difficulties encountered in reading Alexander Blok and Zinaida Gippius within either a feminist or a traditional, binary gendered framework derive not only from the peculiarities of their creative personalities but also from the specific Russian cultural context. Although these two poets engaged in gendered practices that, at times, appeared to be highly idiosyncratic and even incited gossip among their contemporaries, they were not operating in a vacuum. Instead, they were responding to philosophical concepts that were central to Russian Symbolism and that would continue to shape modernism in Russia.

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Though the Russian Symbolist movement was dominated by a concern with transcending sex, many of the writers associated with the movement exhibited an intense preoccupation with matters of the flesh. Drawing on poetry, plays, short stories, essays, memoirs, and letters, as well as feminist and psychoanalytic theory, Beyond the Flesh doc...

Jenifer Presto is associate professor of comparative literature and Russian at the University of Oregon.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:352 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:November 7, 2008Publisher:University Of Wisconsin PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0299229505

ISBN - 13:9780299229504

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Table of Contents

Contents
 
Illustrations      
Acknowledgments       
A Note on Transliteration and Abbreviations    
 
Introduction.
Beyond the Flesh: Russian Symbolism and the Sublimation of Sex         
 
Part I. Poetry Against Progeny: Blok and the Problem of Poetic Reproduction
1. Unbearable Burdens: Blok and the Modernist Resistance to Progeny
2. Recurring Nightmares: Blok, Freud, and the Specter of Die Ahnfrau
3. Reproductive Fantasies: Blok and the Creation of The Italian Verses           
4. A Time of Troubles: Blok and the Disruption of Poetic Succession    
 
Part II. Writing Against the Body: Gippius and the Problem of Lyric Embodiment
5. Style "Femme": Gippius and the Resistance to Feminine Writing     
6. The Dandy's Gaze: Gippius and Disdainful Desire for the Feminine    
7. Eternal Feminine Problems: Gippius, Blok, and the Incarnation of the Ideal    
8. Body Trouble: Gippius and the Staging of an Anatomy of Criticism   
 
Afterword.
The Return of the Repressed: Illegitimate Babies and an Unwieldy Body           
 
Notes  
Index    

Editorial Reviews

“Presto takes a fresh tack on the poets. . . . With a nuanced eye she explores the complexities and contradictions of these poets’ construction of gendered selves, in life and art. . . . The study is hugely worth reading; may it produce new generations of scholars whose ‘Blok’ and ‘Gippius’ are informed by refreshing twenty-first-century perspectives.”—Julie de Sherbinin, Slavic Review