Over Hill and Dale in Pursuit of the Russian Fox

3rd Contribution to the Forum about Jeffrey Brooks’ The Firebird and the Fox

In: Russian History
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  • 1 Graduate Chair of Russian and East European Studies, Department of Russian and East European Studies, School of Arts & Sciences, University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia, PAUSA
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Jeffrey Brooks’ book The Firebird and the Fox presents a synthetic account of Russian cultural history from the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth. Brooks describes culture as an “ecosystem,” persistent across seeming moments of historical rupture such as the revolutions of 1917, animated by certain overarching thematic concerns, and uniting readers and writers across a broad spectrum of levels of social life, from the newly literate popular masses to the educated elites, and forms of media, from prestigious belles lettres to popular illustrated weeklies, satirical journals and children’s literature. Drawing on the theoretical description of historiographical writing offered by Hayden White, this essay examines Brooks’ book in terms of its formal patterning as a comedic narrative and its poetic basis in the trope of synecdoche, which undergird its analytical efforts to integrate material across seeming historical and social divides.

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