The Ethnic Avant-Garde: Minority Cultures and World Revolution

Steven Lee
Berkeley Book Chats
Image of The Ethnic Avant-Garde book cover
Wednesday, Sep 28, 2016 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall
United States

Steven Lee’s research interests include 20th-century American literature, comparative ethnic studies, and Soviet and post-Soviet studies. His book The Ethnic Avant-Garde (2015) makes a unique contribution to interwar literary, political, and art history, drawing extensively on Russian archives, travel narratives, and artistic exchanges to establish the parameters of an undervalued "ethnic avant-garde." These writers and artists orbited interwar Moscow, where an international avant-garde converged with the Communist International.

The book explores Vladimir Mayakovsky's 1925 visit to New York City, during which he wrote Russian-language poetry in an "Afro-Cuban" voice; Langston Hughes's translations of these poems while in Moscow; a futurist play on Broadway with a predominantly Asian American cast condemning Western imperialism in China; and efforts to imagine the Bolshevik Revolution as Jewish messianic arrest, followed by the slow political disenchantment of the New York Intellectuals.

After an introduction by Donna Jones (English), Lee speaks briefly about his work and then opens the floor for discussion.