We Modern People. Science Fiction and the Making of Russian Modernity

    We Modern People_Anindita Banerjee

    Anindita Banerjee (Associate Professor of comparative literature at Cornell University, U.S.A)

    Wesleyan University Press
    2013 • 208 pp. 8 illus. 6 x 9″
    Literary Criticism / Science Fiction

    How science fiction forged a unique Russian vision of modernity distinct from Western models

    Science fiction emerged in Russia considerably earlier than its English version and instantly became the hallmark of Russian modernity. We Modern People investigates why science fiction appeared here, on the margins of Europe, before the genre had even been named, and what it meant for people who lived under conditions that Leon Trotsky famously described as “combined and uneven development.” Russian science fiction was embraced not only in literary circles and popular culture, but also by scientists, engineers, philosophers, and political visionaries. Anindita Banerjee explores the handful of well-known early practitioners, such as Briusov, Bogdanov, and Zamyatin, within a much larger continuum of new archival material comprised of journalism, scientific papers, popular science texts, advertisements, and independent manifestos on social transformation. In documenting the unusual relationship between Russian science fiction and Russian modernity, this book offers a new critical perspective on the relationship between science, technology, the fictional imagination, and the consciousness of being modern.


    • Introduction: Science Fiction and the Making of Russian Modernity
    • a) Beyond East and West on the Tracks of Modernity: Science Fiction Goes to Siberia
    • b) From Air Dramas to Mystical Wars: The Ascending Plane of Science Fiction
    • c) From Siberia to the Planet Mars: The Cosmic Limits of Science Fiction
    • a) Telos and Chronos: The Two Time Scales of Science Fiction
    • b) A Poetics of Excess: The Clashing Regimes of Science Fiction
    • c) Kings of Time: Science Fiction’s Intimations of the Future
    • GENERATING POWER• a) Electric Origins: The Anode and Cathode of Ethical Modernity
    • b) Virtual Electrification: Science Fiction in the Age of Edison
    • c) Electrifying Modernism: The Vitalist Alchemy of Science Fiction
    • d) GOELRO Electrifiction: Science Fiction’s Synthesis of Salvation
    • a) Evolving beyond Darwin: Body Mind, and Matter in Science Fiction
    • b) From Man-Machines to Plant-Humans: The Cosmic Bodies of Science Fictio
    • c) Healing Darwin and Marx: The Hemostatic Universe of Science Fiction
    • NOTES


    “The basis of this book is an original and tremendously engaging idea—that science fiction served as a crucial model for national literature in Russia. It made Russian modernity possible. Banerjee treats science fiction not as a genre but as a mode of apprehending the world.”—Stephanie Sandler, Harvard University

    “Making the compelling connection between mass-scale revolutionary technological projects, such as the Trans-Siberian railroad, and the avant-garde campaigns to transform the Russian/Soviet imagination, Banerjee demonstrates how the techno-political and science-fictional imaginations are entwined in the modernization process. This book is an exemplary study in linking the popularization of science with modern literature.”—Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., author of The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction


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