Soc-Art as Critical Model

Andrew Hicks, Columbia University

Much of the current wave of inquiry into Socialist Realist literature has been strongly influenced by Soc-Art as refracted through the early criticism devoted to it. Although this critical influence can be largely traced to Russian scholars now practicing in the West (e.g., Groys, Dobrenko), it has become part of the common discourse, used in some way by most current critics of the period. This paper will examine the effects of Soc-Art on the way we read Socialist Realism today. First, it will discuss the interaction of art and literary models: just as many fundamental studies of the field over the past thirty years have focused on Socialist Realist visual culture, so too was Soc-Art first a visual movement, the contributions of writers like Sorokin or Prigov notwithstanding. Second, the ironic element of Soc-Art practice has found easy reception in many broadly postmodernist American approaches; incorporation of other intellectual features of Soc-Art, e.g., nostalgia and fascination with Stalinism as artistic practice, makes for more nuanced and illuminating criticism. The paper will end with a brief consideration of later literary approaches to Socialist Realism (notably Pelevin) and consider their possible implications for scholarship in the field.