Carnality and Eroticism in the History of Russian Literature: Toward a Genealogy of a Discourse of Silence


  • Alexei Lalo University of Texas



The essay explores traditions of expressing the body and sexuality in Russian culture and literature. The main strategy that many authors used was that of silence ignoring (“keeping silent about”) the topic altogether. Alternatively, others have adhered to burlesques, in which an author presents carnality and eroticism in a deliberately ludicrous, grotesque way. The essay defines three historical determinants for the “strategy of silence” and the “strategy of burlesque” marking the history of Russia's literary representation. The first is a set of profound differences between Western and Russian medical science, sexology and psychopathology. The second is a divide in perceptions of sexuality between Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox traditions. The third is embodied in some of the earliest canonical representations of sexuality in literary history, including the Archpriest Avvakum’s Life (1682).


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Author Biography

Alexei Lalo, University of Texas

Alexei Lalo (b. 1971) holds a Ph.D. (kandidat nauk) in Philology (US Lit.) from the Gorky Institute for World Literature, Moscow (2002) and a Ph.D. in CompLit from UT-Austin. He worked as an instructor, sen. instructor, and assist. professor at the European Humanities University in Minsk from 1994 to 2004. In 2004-05 was a Rockefeller postdoctoral scholar at the UC-Santa Cruz. In 2005-10 he was a teaching asst / asst instructor of Russian at UT. Published a monograph on Thomas Pynchon (in Russian), co-edited a collection of essays; has about 20 publications in Russia, Belarus, the United States. He currently is a lecturer at the Department for Slavic and Eurasian Studies at UT-Austin.