Sex in Public examines the ideological poetics and the rhetoric of power in the Soviet Union during the 1920s, a period of anxiety over the historical legitimacy of Soviet ideology and Bolshevik power. Drawing on a wide range of sources--Party Congress transcripts, the classics of early Soviet literature, sex education pamphlets, the cinema, crime reports, and early Soviet ventures into popular science--the author seeks to explain the period's preoccupation with crime, disease, and, especially, sex. Using strategies of reading developed by literary scholars, he devotes special care to exploring the role of narrative in authoritative political texts. The book breaks new ground in its attention to the ideological importance of the female body during this important formative stage of Bolshevik rule.
Sex in Public provides a fundamentally new history of the New Economic Policy and offers important revisionist readings of many of the fundamental cultural products of the early Soviet period. Perhaps most important, it serves as a model for the sort of interdisciplinary work that is possible when historians take literary and ideology theory seriously and when ideology theorists seek to conform to the standards of documentary rigor traditionally demanded by historians. It thus becomes a study that can be read as both positivistic and postmodern.
"Naiman has written an original, thought-provoking, and well-researched book that is destined to become a classic study of the role of sex, crime, and disease in the ideological discourse that took place in the first decade of Soviet power.... Few can deny the insightful, ground-breaking quality of Sex in Public."--Ronald D. LeBlanc, Slavic and East European Journal
"This is a big book--large in its scope and ambitions. Naiman offers a bold reassessment of early Soviet ideology.... This is not a book for the faint-hearted, since the graphic descriptions of real and imagined sex crimes can sometimes make for difficult reading. Like a prosecutor preparing for a case, Naiman uses this mass of evidence to make a dense argument for the centrality of sex to fears about the future of the revolution.... Nowhere has [the New Economic Policy] been depicted in such dark terms as in this book."--Lynn Mally, Europe-Asia Studies
"An insightful, imaginative, and path-breaking work.... Naiman's work represents one of the most interesting attempts to bring together literature and history in years."--Svetlana Boyrn, Harvard University
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File created: 3/28/2014