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We Modern People
Science Fiction and the Making of Russian Modernity
Anindita Banerjee



Early Classics of Science Fiction

Wesleyan University Press
2013 • 230 pp. 8 illus. 6 x 9"
Literary Criticism / Science Fiction

$24.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-7334-6
$75.00 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-7333-9

$19.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7335-3

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

(Cloth edition is un-jacketed.
Cover illustration is for paperback edition only)



"In We Modern People, an erudite and thoughtful study of Soviet science fiction, Anindita Banerjee uncovers the literary responses and manifestations of Russia’s struggle to come to terms with modern science and technology. …We Modern People successfully underscores how, already by the 1920s, Russian writers and artists of all ilk--not just a handful of science fiction writers--were deeply engaged in critiques of positivist notions of modernity. Banerjee’s deeply insightful recovery of this discourse adds much fodder for thought for those who confine their studies on the history of modernity and its relationship to science and technology to Western Europe and the United States. There is much to learn from her book."—Veit Elser, Science

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.

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Reviews:

“Banerjee is eloquent on the Western cultural and scientific influences—including Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Georges Cuvier, Lord Kelvin, Friedrich Nietzsche and Henri Bergson, and not least the Lumière brothers and Georges Méliès— who informed this shift in consciousness. … Banerjee’s genuinely valuable contention is that science fiction unified the traditional discourse of Orthodox utopianism with modernism’s radical spiritual potential. She convincingly traces the continuities between Enlightenment scientists such as Mikhail Lomonosov and avant-garde irrationalists like Velimir Khlebnikov, marshaling in support an impressive battery of Western critical theorists, from Foucault to Lefebvre.”
Muireann Maguire, Times Literary Supplement

We Modern People uses a breathtaking variety of sources, including everything from political pamphlets to portraits of Lenin, scientific and philosophical treatises, cinema, popular journals, and political pronouncements to expand not only the concept of science fiction itself but also its role in the evolution of modern social and political thought. Banerjee’s selection of fascinating novels, poetry, film, and art combines with her discussion of some of the scientific work and political thought going on in that period. This approach effectively illuminates her provocative main theme: that Russian science fiction of this period was in many ways not only richer and more exciting than its contemporary Western equivalents but also dynamically linked with the formation of modern Russian consciousness in general.” Susan Napier, LA Review of Books

Endorsements:

“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



ANINDITA BANERJEE is an associate professor of comparative literature at Cornell University.






Sun, 5 Oct 2014 14:46:02 -0500