Masked and costume balls thrived in Russia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries during a period of rich literary and theatrical experimentation. The first study of its kind, The Modernist Masquerade examines the cultural history of masquerades in Russia and their representations in influential literary works.
The masquerade's widespread appearance as a literary motif in works by such writers as Anna Akhmatova, Leonid Andreev, Andrei Bely, Aleksandr Blok, and Fyodor Sologub mirrored its popularity as a leisure-time activity and illuminated its integral role in the Russian modernist creative consciousness. Colleen McQuillen charts how the political, cultural, and personal significance of lavish costumes and other forms of self-stylizing evolved in Russia over time. She shows how their representations in literature engaged in dialog with the diverse aesthetic trends of Decadence, Symbolism, and Futurism and with the era's artistic philosophies.