A Cultural Analysis of the Russo-Soviet Anekdot

by Graham, Seth

Abstract (Summary)
This is a study of the cultural significance and generic specificity of the Russo-Soviet joke (in Russian, anekdot [pl. anekdoty]). My work departs from previous analyses by locating the genre's quintessence not in its formal properties, thematic taxonomy, or structural evolution, but in the essential links and productive contradictions between the anekdot and other texts and genres of Russo-Soviet culture. The anekdot's defining intertextuality is prominent across a broad range of cycles, including those based on popular film and television narratives, political anekdoty, and other cycles that draw on more abstract discursive material. Central to my analysis is the genre's capacity for reflexivity in various senses, including generic self-reference (anekdoty about anekdoty), ethnic self-reference (anekdoty about Russians and Russian-ness), and critical reference to the nature and practice of verbal signification in more or less implicit ways. The analytical and theoretical emphasis of the dissertation is on the years 1961-86, incorporating the Stagnation period plus additional years that are significant in the genre's history. That quarter-century span in the USSR saw not only the coagulation of a way of life that provided ample fodder for oral satire, but also the appearance of a series of texts that provided source material for the topical anekdot cycles that to this day constitute a large portion of the Russian jokelore corpus. Before turning to the Soviet-period anekdot, I discuss the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century distinction between the literary or historical anekdot - a written genre not reliant on humor and in which real-life people figured - and the traditional folk anekdot, an offshoot of the folktale. The twentieth-century anekdot represented a confluence of its folkloric and inscribed forebears, combining features of (and effectively superseding) both traditions. By the 1960s, the attributes and functions the genre had accrued over the course of its development began to resonate with the underlying tropes, conflicts, and values of the society to such a degree that the anekdot became a kind of "genre-laureate" of the age. The dissertation concludes with an examination of the post-censorship anekdot, and a contextualization of the genre in the larger cultural atmosphere of contemporary Russia.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Mark Lipovetsky; Helena Goscilo; Vladimir Padunov; Colin MacCabe; Nancy Condee

School:University of Pittsburgh

School Location:USA - Pennsylvania

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:slavic languages and literatures


Date of Publication:01/16/2004

© 2009 All Rights Reserved.