Subject(s) to change: Revolution as pedagogy, or representations of education and the formation of the Russian revolutionary

Bradley Owen Jordan, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation explores the relationship between education and revolution in Russian revolutionary literature. I am interested in the role that the representation of education plays in those texts which account for the creation of the agent of revolution, the "enlightened" proletariat. The major problem is to understand how the student is shown to acquire revolutionary knowledge in literature, both in the text of theory, as well as in other kinds of texts that address issues of revolutionary change. What makes the revolutionary student so interesting, I argue, is his dual position in the revolutionary scenario. The proletariat is the learning subject, chosen by capitalism itself as the one possible agent of capitalism's downfall. But he is also the object to be learned, since it is only in learning the nature of the proletariat's position in the system that one might understand and overcome it. Thus revolutionary learning is, for this student, a kind of self-learning, and the task of the instructor is not to transmit "new" knowledge to the student, but rather to elicit from the student a recognition of his experiences in the scientific narrative of Marxist theory. Paradoxically, this revolutionary educational model bears a striking resemblance to two pedagogical models with which it would not seem to share any common ground at first glance: the Socratic model as articulated in The Meno, and the Freudian model of psychoanalysis. In both of these models knowledge is said to be produced by the student/patient in the process of breaking down resistances ("recollecting") rather than by the instructor, who merely facilitates the student's learning trajectory with the proper questions and proposals. Having analyzed this "model" over the dissertation's first two chapters I try, in the final three chapters, to show its relevance to readings of a number of different texts: pedagogical (Lunacharsky, Krupskaia), esthetico-cultural (Proletkul't, Kollontai), and literary, including works by Furmanov, Seifullina, Lavrenov, and Platonov. This problem is, I believe, particularly relevant to fiction, where the classroom became one of the privileged textual spaces for understanding the revolutionary process.

Subject Area

Comparative literature|Slavic literature|Literature

Recommended Citation

Jordan, Bradley Owen, "Subject(s) to change: Revolution as pedagogy, or representations of education and the formation of the Russian revolutionary" (1993). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9331793.