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Title: Mathematical Rebellion. Zero in the Russian Avant-Garde
Authors: Strudler, Jason
Advisors: Wachtel, Michael
Contributors: Slavic Languages and Literatures Department
Keywords: avant-garde
Subjects: Slavic literature
Slavic studies
Art history
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: In the early twentieth century, many avant-gardists became convinced that traditional art had run its course, and they viewed themselves as being on the verge of discovering a new aesthetics. Such discussions came to revolve around the mathematical concept of zero, which was theorized by Andrei Bely, Aleksei Kruchenykh, Kazimir Malevich, Daniil Kharms and others as a meeting point between the old and the new. My project traces the development of this concept in poetry, prose and the visual arts. It focuses on the years between Bely's first writings on zero (1902) and the death of Malevich (1935), who theorized a "zero of forms" out of which the art of the future would emerge. In my study, I take on new interpretations of the figures discussed above, examining the different ways in which the Russian Avant-Garde sought artistic potential in nullification and used zero as a metaphor for both total destruction and creation ex nihilo. In my first chapter, I situate zero in its broader cultural context, discussing works by Vladimir Mayakovsky, Kornei Chukovsky and Vasilisk Gnedov, who saw zero as a threshold between the culture of the past and that of the future. In my second chapter, I turn to Bely and his idea of the "terror of zero," a simultaneous experience of all of culture and its total negation that informs numerous works from his third symphony (1902) to his novel Petersburg (1913-14). My third chapter centers on Kruchenykh, who argued that the new art should retain the form of zero rather than go beyond it, and came to view zaum' poetry as an aesthetic of zero, which he interpreted as non-resolution. My last chapter traces Malevich's lifelong engagement with zero; focusing on the Black Square (1915) and other Suprematist paintings, I show how the artist's turn to abstraction represented an attempt to find a place for the self in absolute nihilism. In my conclusion, I examine works by Kharms, Nikolai Oleinikov and the Nichevoki group to trace the transition to an absurdist zero in the early Soviet period.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Slavic Languages and Literatures

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