Explorations in Visual Culture
Publication Date: March 2010
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What can Russian images and objects a tsar's crown, a provincial watercolor album, the Soviet Pioneer Palace tell us about the Russian people and their culture?
This wide-ranging book is the first to explore the visual culture of Russia over the entire span of Russian history, from ancient Kiev to contemporary, post-Soviet society. Illustrated with more than one hundred diverse and fascinating images, the book examines the ways that Russians have represented themselves visually, understood their visual environment, and used visual images in social and political contexts. Expert contributors discuss images and objects from all over the Russian/Soviet empire, including consumer goods, architectural monuments, religious icons, portraits, news and art photography, popular prints, films, folk art, and more.
Each of the concise and accessible essays in the volume offers a fresh interpretation of Russian cultural history. Putting visuality itself in focus as never before, "Picturing Russia" adds an entirely new dimension to the study of Russian literature, history, art, and culture. The book enriches our understanding of visual documents and shows the variety of ways they serve as far more than mere illustration.
Valerie A. Kivelson is professor, Department of History, University of Michigan. She lives in Ann Arbor, MI. Joan Neuberger is professor, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin. She lives in Austin.
"I can''t imagine a single Russian studies teacher in the English-speaking world who wouldn''t want to have this volume."—John Randolph, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“It’s a rare mixed-media book that can imitate in words its own visual principle, but this stunning anthology succeeds at just that: speaking through montage and mosaic. In fifty fascinating, chronologically organized essay-vignettes, averaging no more than six pages each so accessible in a single viewing, the reader’s eye is trained to ‘see into being’ a wide array of Russian artifacts and images from the past one thousand years, raw and manipulated, private and public. These are Pictures from an Exhibition, but as social practice rather than museum art.”—Caryl Emerson, Princeton University
“This brilliantly assembled set of insightful essays come together as a theoretically sophisticated, yet very accessible, study of Russian visual culture. A whole greater than the sum of its parts.”—William Mills Todd III, Harvard University
-William Mills Todd III
"This is a unique collection of visual resources accompanied by expert and penetrating commentary by a wide variety of scholars."—Nikos Chrissidis, Southern Connecticut State University
"The dizzying array of things "exhibited" in the book is somewhat neutralized by very focused and clearly structured essays. As if writing for a good exhibition catalogue, each contributor foregrounds the object of his/her research, not his/her research agenda. In fact, Picturing Russia marks the emergence of a new transitional genre, in which sophisticated research methods and theoretical approaches are translated into an accessible academic prose, which is neither simplified conceptually nor diluted narratively."—Serguei Oushakine, Slavic and East European Journal
"This vibrant collection of fifty short essays on images and objects from over half a millenium of Russian history is a treasure box of small and unexpected delights. The authors—each writing on his or her own specialty—undertake everything from the tsar''s famous royal crown (the cap of Monomakh) to late-twentienth-century advertisements. . . . Picturing Russia is a book both useful and pleasurable for anyone studying (or teaching) European or Russian history."—Cherie Woodworth, Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes d''histoire
"Picturing Russia is a landmark in the study of Russian visual culture. . . . The topics covered offer an impressively comprehensive view since they represent the entire span of Russian history. . . . Picturing Russia is an ambitious and important book." —Alison Rowley, Journal of Modern History
"In this short review it is impossible to give tribute to the many superb entries. But the main praise goes to the editors for soliciting first-rate contributions to this revolutionary collection, writing an excellent introduction and producing a volume that is educational, visually appealing and, for the most part, written in accessible language."—Elena Prokhorova, Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema Vol 4, No.3
"Picturing Russia takes the reader on a thought-provoking journey through the evolution of Russian visual culture, and will introduce many to unfamiliar subjects whilst offering fresh interpretations of artistic and cultural landmarks. Above all, it inspires the reader to consider seeing, as much as reading, when next exploring Russian history."—Emma Minns, Slavonic And East European Review Vol.88 No.4