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NEP (New Economic Policy) and Olesha

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Kathleen Scollins

on 30 September 2013

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Transcript of NEP (New Economic Policy) and Olesha

N.E.P
NEP
(New Economic Policy)
and Yuri Olesha's Envy

Major Themes Continued from Zamyatin's We:
Battle between New/Old
Building new society, re-engineering human nature
Cult of the machine, man-machine
Eradication of family; replacement by State structures
Art-for-art’s-sake vs. art serving social purpose
Role and place of the imagination in society

NEP:
Economic policy proposed by Lenin after the Civil War, intended to revive the country’s economy.
Partial restoration of capitalist elements, resulting in a mixed economy
Private individuals allowed to own small businesses, while the State continued to control banks, foreign trade, large industry.
Restored the economy, but also resulted in re-emergence of a capitalist class (class distinctions)
Lasted 1921-1928 (until Stalin announced the first 5-year plan).
Yuri Olesha, 1899-1960
Pro-Soviet? Anti-Soviet?
1. His works are delicate balancing-acts that appear to send pro-Communist messages, but reveal far greater subtlety and richness upon deeper reading
2. He is a second-rate compromiser! A collaborator! A hack! A sell-out!
you be the judge!
ENVY
OLD
NEW
DREAMERS
BUILDERS
DELUSIONAL MISFITS
DEDICATED PUBLIC SERVANTS
EMBATTLED POETIC IMAGINATION
PEDESTRIAN NEOPHILISTINES
FAMILY
Bolsheviks attach little importance to emotional ties between parents and children
Family should be based on affiliation, common social goals
physical culture
obsession with exercise and sport
physical exercise better workers
team sports like soccer: collective!
cult of the machine
Needed: "a supply of qualified, disciplined, labor-machines"
(actual Bukharin quote!)
BUILDING THE
NEW MAN!
ENVY: ALL SORTS OF DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILIES!
KAVALEROV: HOMELESS, NO FAMILY TIES
ANDREI/IVAN BABICHEV: DIVIDED BROTHERS
VALYA: ABANDONED FATHER FOR IDEOLOGICAL REASONS
ANDREI: NO CHILDREN. INSTEAD, SURROGATES AND SAUSAGES
SOVIET SOCIAL POLICY:
BOURGEOIS FAMILY BASED ON CAPITAL (EXPLOITATION OF WIFE AS MEANS OF LABOR)
FAMILY UNIT PREVENTS WIFE/MOTHER FROM PARTICIPATING IN SOCIAL PRODUCTION
INDUSTRIALIZATION OF BYT (DAILY LIFE) LIBERATES WOMEN FROM DOMESTIC PRISON!
construction of communal kitchens, dining halls, laundries, and childcare facilities
Envy: Andrei Babichev is the builder of "The Quarter," a communal kitchen where a
2-course meal costs a quarter.
society-wide focus on technology, industry, efficiency
machines admired as most visible symbols of technological progress
physical building, industrialization as emblem of constructing a new society
the man-machine
Bolsheviks call for a New Man
cult of the man-machine derived
from absolute faith in science and
technology
Envy: Volodya Makarov, the ultimate New Man, “envies machines”
interpretations
Soviet:
Pro-Soviet:
The “objective meaning” of the novel is the encounter between a man for whom life means action, who is in love with a dream about improving the lot of the working people, about making it beautiful, and a self-absorbed egotist cut off from life and mired in abstract contemplation, in idle ruminations about the beauty of feelings

Anti-Soviet:
The author’s unhealthy sympathy for his unreconstructed bourgeois individualists, and his satirical treatment of the Bolshevik activist, demonstrate a dangerous, counter-revolutionary stance

Western:
Anti-Soviet:
The unprejudiced reader cannot but be aware that Olesha had a sneaky regard for his romantic rebels – that he sympathizes with Kavalerov’s assertion of the worth of the individual… for all their vulgarity and meanness, the two ‘negative’ characters of Envy are human, while the two main spokesmen of the new world—the world of sausages, machines, and model canteens—are both vulgar and inhuman, machine-like.

Pro-ambiguity:
Ultimately, Olesha is deeply ambivalent about both camps – Andrei Babichev may be uninspired and even ludicrous, but he is motivated by a genuinely nurturing impulse. And the fallen Romantics (Ivan Babichev and Kavalerov), such eloquent spokesmen for human passion and individualism, seem to be motivated in large part by sour grapes – they are badmouthing a feast to which they have not been invited.
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