Libertinage in Russian Culture and Literature

A Bio-History of Sexualities at the Threshold of Modernity


Much of the previous scholarship on Russia's literary discourses of sexuality and eroticism in the Silver Age was built on applying European theoretical models (from psychoanalysis to feminist theory) to Russia's modernization. This book argues that, at the turn into the twentieth century, Russian popular culture for the first time found itself in direct confrontation with the traditional high cultures of the upper classes and intelligentsia, producing modernized representations of sexuality. This Russian tradition of conflicted representations, heretofore misassessed by literary history, emerges as what Foucault would call a full-blown “bio-history” of Russian culture: a history of indigenous representations of sexuality and the eroticized body capable of innovation on its own terms, not just those derivative from Europe.

E-Book : List price

EUR €147.00USD $181.00
Biographical Note
Alexei Lalo, Ph.D. (2010) in Comparative Literature, University of Texas at Austin, teaches Russian literature at UT-Austin. He has published extensively on North American and Russian literature and culture, including a book on Thomas Pynchon (Minsk, 2001).
Review Quotes
"The topic behind Libertinage in Russian Culture and Literature is simply enormous, bringing together Silver Age and émigré medical, elite, and religious discourses on the body, sexuality, sex, and physicality. Lalo’s literary study, drawn from Foucault, has its victories. It certainly proves the existence of a native Russian point of view on these topics and absolutely confirms the case for an interdisciplinary approach to this period. The book as well offers distinctly persuasive explanations for Russian differences from the West."
Krista Sigler, University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College, in East Central Europe issue 40.3 (2013)
(full review text:
Table of contents
Introduction: Approaching Russian Silences and Burlesques
1. Carnality and Eroticism in the History of Russian Literature: Toward a Genealogy of a Dis-course of Silence
2. Golden Silences in the Golden Age: Russian Anxieties of the Body and Sexuality from Gogol to Chekhov
3. Silence is Golden, Speech is Silver: Corporeality, Sensuality, and “Pornography” in Russian Literature of the Silver Age
4. Exploring the Impetus of the Silver Age: The Evolution of Discourses of Carnality and Eroticism in Pre-Revolutionary Russian Literature and in Émigré Writing
5. Nabokov’s Lolita and its Precursors: Silver Age Roots and Sexuality in the Novel
6. Joseph Brodsky’s Libertinage: Sexual and Erotic Themes in his Poetry
Conclusion: Russia’s “Threshold of Modernity” and Literary Representations of Sexuality in the Era of Bio-power
All those interested in Russian intellectual and literary history and in literary representations of human sexualities, as well as comparatists using interdisciplinary approaches to world literature.
Index Card
Collection Information