Defiant Children's Literature of the Stalin Era

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May 3, 2022 - May 24, 2022 (4 Sessions)
Tuesdays, 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM ET

Russia's current invasion of Ukraine harkens us back to a time in history when Joseph Stalin held power in Russia with a totalitarian grip. Anyone who dared to oppose his rule was eliminated, so artists and writers found other avenues to voice their dissent. During this time in history subversive, humorous children's literature served as a voice of the resistance. The children's literature of that time reminded educated elites of the ways in which cultural figures spoofed their oppressors even under Stalin. Through the writing and illustrations of the time, join Dr. Brooks as he guides you through an exploration of the ways in which these forms of expression from the Stalin era matter today more than ever and reminds us that there is another Russia besides Putin’s, at least in imagination. Experience a culture and civilization of a powerful country from the bottom up with the legacy of a subversive critical culture under Lenin and Stalin that produces laughter and joy even today. explore the role of the fool, the personification of animals, and the power of storytelling.

Dr. Brooks will discuss his collection of Russian books and graphic arts, recently donated to the Sheridan Libraries, that document state-sponsored propaganda during the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. From satirical magazines to children’s literature, these rich visual materials also document a long-embedded counter-tradition to the nostalgic mythology of “Holy Russia.” This subversive and playful tradition by Russian writers and satirists—a struggle for truth and freedom against repression and ignorance—is more important now than ever.

Freedom and Agency: Emancipation Narrative in Folklore and Children's literature in the time of Stalin. Ivan the Firebird and the Grey Wolf, The Little Humpback Horse.

Folls and Follishness: The Lasting Power of Subversive Humor and Goodness in Russian Culture.
Silly Little Mouse (1925): The Power of a Children's Tale
The Crocodile (1917): Pre-revolution. Revolution through a Child's Tale.
Monster Cockroach (1923): Cultural Ecosystem

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Current and retired full-time Johns Hopkins faculty and staff, as well as their spouses or domestic partners, are eligible for tuition remission. Eligibility details can be found here.

After registration, tuition remission eligibility will be confirmed by the Odyssey registrar. If eligibility cannot be confirmed, you will be required to pay full tuition for the course. Under the terms of the University’s remission program, Hopkins employees must withdraw in writing at least five working days before the first class to receive a 100% refund. No partial refunds are given to JHU employees and affiliates. All other participants should review the JHAA Event Cancellation and Refund Policy

ABOUT Jeffrey Brooks (Ph.D)
Professor, History

I study and teach the political and cultural history of modern Russia, the history of the Soviet-American Cold War, and the great works of Russian and Soviet culture in their contemporary context. My The Firebird and the Fox: Russian Culture under Tsars and Bolsheviks (Cambridge University Press, 2019) showcases the genius of Russian literature, art, music, and dance over a century of turmoil within the dynamic cultural ecosystem that shaped it. The Firebird and the Fox explores the shared traditions, mutual influences, and enduring themes that recur in these art forms from 1850-1950. The book uses two emblematic characters from Russian culture—the firebird, symbol of the transcendent power of art in defiance of circumstance and the efforts of censors to contain creativity; and the fox, usually female and representing wit, cleverness and the agency of artists and everyone who triumphs over adversity—to explore how Russian cultural life changed over the period. High culture drew on folk and popular genres, then in turn influences an expanding commercial culture.

My research has been supported by The Guggenheim Foundation, the Fulbright-Hays Program, The National Endowment for the Humanities, the Woodrow Wilson Center, the National Council for Soviet and East European Research, and the IREX Academy Exchange, among others.

I received the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award in Arts and Sciences in 2004.

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 Event Date
Tuesday, May 3, 2022
6:30pm EDT

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

1-800-JHU-JHU1 (548-5481)

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