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Symposium at Princeton: The Pedagogy of Images: Depicting Communism for Children (May 1-2, 2015)

Socialism always had major pedagogical ambitions: building a new society was also about promoting new forms of social imaginary and a new vocabulary of images. Lenin’s plan of monumental propaganda is well known and well researched; this symposium’s project is collaborative scholarly investigation of a less monumental but no less important and pervasive visual language developed by the socialist state for its children.
Soon after its revival in spring of 1929, Literaturnaia gazeta, the main newspaper of Soviet writers, published a lead article that outlined “new paths for the children’s book”. The newspaper noted that the new “young mass reader” required a new – contemporary – type of book: “practical, informative, concrete, graphic and documentary.” Given these requirements, Literaturnaia gazeta concluded, it was hardly surprising that book illustrators have become authors in their own right: “the language of images is much more comprehensible for the multilingual mass reader.”
is precisely this process of conflation of text and image within the boundaries of the illustrated book for young Soviet readers that the symposium plans to examine. As a part of the general desire to translate Communism into idioms and images accessible to the illiterate, alternatively literate, and pre-literate, children’s books visualized ideological norms and goals in a way that guaranteed easy legibility and direct appeal, without sacrificing the political identity of the message.

This symposium is intended to be the first in a series of interdisciplinary symposia at Princeton which would map out approaches to studying the dual verbal-visual representation of the communist imaginary and sensibility, by engaging its various exponents in different divisions of Princeton University Library’s collection: the Cotsen Children’s Library, the Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology, the Graphic Arts Collection and other components of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.


Presenter: Maria Balina (Illinois Wesleyan University)
Stories of Little Brothers: Depicting Proletarian Internationalism in Soviet Children’s Literature of the 1920s-1930s
Discussant: Emily Wang (Princeton University)

Presenter: Robert Bird (University of Chicago)пятилетка-22
Model Objects and Model Subjects
Discussant: Maya Vinokour (University of Pennsylvania)

Presenter: Helena Goscilo (Ohio State University)
Edifying the New Soviet Child in Boris Kustodiev’s Soviet Paradise
Discussant: Irina Denischenko (Columbia University)

Presenter: Katherine Hill Reischl (Princeton University)
Soviet Wings: From Aerosleds to Aeroplanes
Discussant: Marlow Davis (Columbia University)

Presenter: Christina Kiaer (Northwestern University)
“Afrika” and “Iskorka”: Racial Enlightenment in a Soviet Children’s Journal
Discussant: Ksenia Nouril (Rutgers University)

Presenter: Thomas Keenan (Princeton University Library)
Amerika – Industry, Energy and Ideology in the Imaginary America of Early-Soviet Illustrated Books for Young Readers
Discussant: Abigail Kret (Princeton University)

Presenter: Michael Kunichika (New York University)
The Camel and the Caboose: How to Teach Children about Uneven Development
Discussant: Susanna Weygandt (Princeton University)

Presenter: Yuri Leving (Professor (Slavic), Dalhousie University, Canada)
The Silent Cinema and Talking Books: Soviet Artists as Cineastes
Discussant: Natalia Klimova (Princeton University)

Presenter: Maria Litovskaia (Ural State University)
«Учимся слушать голос власти»: как рассказывать подростку об очень скучных вещах
Discussant: Pavel Khazanov (University of Pennsylvania)

Presenter: Stephen Norris (Professor (Miami University, USA)
Young Soldiers at Play: Soviet Children’s Books and the Red Army
Discussant: Gabriella A. Ferrari (Princeton University)

Presenter: Serguei Alex. Oushakine (Princeton University)
Communism’s Conscious Cogwheels: On Running Blankets, Jumping Pillows and Other Agentive Objects in Early Soviet Russia
Discussant: Bradley Gorski (Columbia University)

Presenter: Nariman Skakov (Stanford University)
Imaginary Imagery in Andrei Platonov’s ‘July Thunderstorm’ (Июльская гроза, 1938)
Discussant: Massimo Balloni (Princeton University)

Presenter: Marina Sokolovskaya (Ural Federal University)
“Ослепительный свет в лицо”: портрет Ленина и обретение дома в детской  книге
Discussant: Daniil M. Leiderman (Princeton University)

Presenter: Kevin M.F. Platt ( University of Pennsylvania)
From Revolutionary Dynamism to Plan and Program: Visualizing Temporality in Soviet Children’s Culture
Discussant: Siarhei Biareishyk (New York University)

Presenter: Birgitte Beck Pristed (Aarhus University)
From Paper to Diafil’m: The Materiality of Early Soviet Children’s Books
Discussant: Tyler Adkins (Princeton University)

Presenter: Erika Wolf (University of Otago)
Removing the Veil: LEF Photography in the Magazine “Pioneer”
Discussant: Philip Gleissner (Princeton University)
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