Flesh to Metal: Soviet Literature and the Alchemy of Revolution

Flesh to Metal: Soviet Literature and the Alchemy of Revolution

by Rolf Hellebust
     
 

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"That science-fiction future in which technology would make everything very good—or very bad—has not yet arrived. From our vantage point at least, no age appears to have had a deeper faith in the inevitability and imminence of such a total technological transformation than the early twentieth century. Russia was no exception."—from the introductionIn

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Overview

"That science-fiction future in which technology would make everything very good—or very bad—has not yet arrived. From our vantage point at least, no age appears to have had a deeper faith in the inevitability and imminence of such a total technological transformation than the early twentieth century. Russia was no exception."—from the introductionIn the Soviet Union, it seems, armoring oneself against the world did not suffice—it was best to become metal itself. In his engaging and accessible book, Rolf Hellebust explores the aesthetic and ideological function of the metallization of the revolutionary body as revealed in Soviet literature, art, and politics. His book shows how the significance of this modern myth goes far beyond the immediate issue of the enthusiasm with which the Bolsheviks welcomed such a symbolic transfiguration and that of our own uneasy attraction to the images of metal flesh and machine-men. Hellebust's literary examples range from the famous (Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago) to the forgotten (early Soviet proletarian poets). To these he adds a mix of non-Russian references, from creation myths to comic book superheroes, medieval alchemy to Moby-Dick. He includes readings of posters, sculpture, and political discourse as well as cross-cultural comparisons to revolutionary France, industrial-age America, and Nazi Germany. The result is a fascinating portrait of the ultimate symbols of dehumanizing modernity, as refracted through the prism of utopian humanism.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Hellebust surveys the USSR's obsessive images involving transformation of humans into metal and machines. . . Hellebust's discussion of the 1960s 'scientific-technological revolution' is particularly welcome, since very few Western scholars address this topic. . . Hellebust's style is unusually lively and engaging, complementing sound research and a sophisticated theoretical framework. The volume contains several illustrations and an impressive bibliography and endnotes. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All collections and levels."—Choice, March 2004

"Flesh to Metal leaves me extremely impressed by its author's innovation and erudition. Beyond simply elaborating the heretofore unexplored motif of the flesh/metal dynamic, Rolf Hellebust engages in a scholarly excavation of its philosophical and cultural antecedents with erudition so naturalized as to result in reasoning that is virtually seamless. This is an important book and adds greatly to our understanding of the dynamics of Soviet culture."—Eliot Borenstein, New York University

"Flesh to Metal is a highly original account of the relationship of the body, metal, and the media, a dazzling inquiry into how metaphors are forged into 'hard signs.' A must for anyone interested in the poetic hardware of Soviet/Russian cultural history."—Sven Spieker, University of California, Santa Barbara

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801488924
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
09/28/2003
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.20(d)

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