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The Battle for Childhood: Creation of a Russian Myth

Wachtel, Andrew Baruch

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ISBN 10: 0804717958 / ISBN 13: 9780804717953
Published by Stanford Univ Pr
Used Condition: Very Good Hardcover
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Title: The Battle for Childhood: Creation of a ...

Publisher: Stanford Univ Pr

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

About this title

Synopsis:

Tolstoy's Childhood, a work of fiction published in 1852, marked the 23-year-old aristocratic author's literary debut. Leon Trotsky's My Life is nonfiction - the autobiography of an embittered and aging Russian-Jewish exile. Yet in his discussion of childhood, Trotsky felt compelled to attack Tolstoy's literary conception, a conception that by the 1930's should have been utterly irrelevant. Why was the view of childhood in a fictional work of the 1850's the relevant point of departure for an autobiography written almost a century later? What can explain the continuing hold of Tolstoy's interpretation of childhood on the Russian imagination? The purpose of this book is to trace the literary, social, and cultural mechanisms by which the theme of childhood developed in Russia from the 1850's to the 1930's. Since works of imaginative literature played a leading role in this process, the author concentrates on the purely literary problems of genre formation and generic evolution. At the same time, the author poses questions about the relationship between literature and the broader social system in order to explain the increasingly strong ideological and cultural importance of conceptions of childhood in this period. Tolstoy claimed universal validity for his picture of the happy childhood, and many members of the gentry agreed. Between 1860 and 1905, however, competing interpretations of the meaning and purpose of childhood began to appear. Eventually, childhood was turned into an ideological battleground. The author first analyzes the role that the pseudo-autobiographical novels of Tolstoy and Aksakov played in formulating the mythology of Russian childhood. He then investigates the mechanisms by which these personal, literary myths were canonized over the course of a half-century in Russian autobiographies. Finally, the author shows how three significant pseudo-autobiographies of the early twentieth century (by Gorky, Belyi, and Bunin) illustrate how the theme of childhood was reintegrated into Russian literature.<

Review:

'An exemplary essay in genre studies and a significant, original contribution to our understanding of the everyday life of the Russian gentry.' William Mills Todd III, Harvard University

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