For What Must We Suffer? An Analysis of Righteous Suffering in Soviet Socialist Realism from N.E.P. to High Stalinism
AuthorBenjamin, John David
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Socialist Realism, as both a literary and historical phenomenon, has been a neglected subject within 20th century Soviet history. Although a handful of scholars have investigated the evolution of the genre, the majority of Western literary historians remain focused on anti-Soviet writings of the Thaw era. This thesis primarily discusses Socialist Realism in the 1930s, during the era of Stalin's reign. It argues that Socialist Realist novels of this decade shared a common literary theme: "righteous suffering." To supplement this research, this thesis expands the historical scope of both the genre of Socialist Realism and the theme of suffering as far back as the pre-Revolutionary era and as far forward as the Thaw generation. This section combines literary analysis with a new methodology in Soviet studies known as the "emotional turn." Maxim Gorky's 1907, Mother, created a literary formula for Socialist Realist authors during Stalin's reign by depicting the struggle for socialism as a battle for basic humanity. He places "righteous suffering" at the foreground of his prose, and reinforces both narrative description and character speech with highly emotional words and phrases. Although this mode of writing did not become a literary standard for Socialist Realism until the 1930s, righteous suffering as a theme became central to the genre during this decade. It was not until after Stalin's death that Soviet writers began to question whether or not suffering in the name of the Communist Party could actually be considered righteous. Finally, this thesis demonstrates the changes which took place in the world of literary production from 1907 to 1968. Specifically, it links these socio-political shifts to the alterations in "righteous suffering" and Socialist Realism as a whole.