Fall 2007

Birth of the Avant-Garde: Modern Poetry and Culture in France and Russia, 1870-1930

Listed in: Special Seminar, as COLQ-36


Catherine A. Ciepiela (Section 01)
Laure A. Katsaros (Section 01)


Between the mid-nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century, poetry was revolutionized both in France and in Russia: nowhere else did the avant-garde proliferate more extravagantly. This class will focus on the key period in the emergence of literary modernity that began with Symbolism and culminated with Surrealism and Constructivism. With the advent of modernism, the poem became a "global phenomenon" that circulated among different languages and different cultures, part of a process of cross-fertilization. An increasingly hybrid genre, avant-garde poetry went beyond its own boundaries by drawing into itself prose literature, philosophy, music, and the visual and performing arts. The relation between the artistic and the literary avant-garde will be an essential concern. We will be reading Rimbaud; the French Symbolists (Mallarme, Laforgue, Valery); the Russian Symbolists (Blok, Bely); Apollinaire, Dada, and the Surrealists (Breton, Eluard, Desnos, Char, Michaux); and the Russian avant-garde poets (Mayakovsky, Pasternak, Khlebnikov, Tsvetaeva). Our study of the arts will include Symbolism (Moreau, Redon); Fauvism (Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck); Cubism, Dada, and early Surrealism (Duchamp, Ernst, Dali, Artaud); the "World of Art" movement; Primitivism and Constructivism (Goncharova, Malevich, Rodchenko, Eisenstein). Course will be taught in English. Students who read fluently in French and/or Russian will be encouraged to read the material in the original language. First semester. Professors Ciepiela and Katsaros.