Storing up Citizens: The Myth of Soviet Motherhood and Childhood in A. P. Platonov’s Dramas of the 1920s–1930s

Elena Chernysheva

Abstract


This article considers the formation of a new Soviet mythology of maternity and infancy in the post-revolutionary literary and artistic discourse and its deconstruction in the dramas of A. P. Platonov in the 1920s and 1930s. The changes of the family and marriage topoi and the dynamic patterns of gender relations in Soviet Russia were a result of a radical transformation of ideology and the structure of society. The author discusses the criticism of this part of the Soviet project that originated inside the system and was expressed by a writer associated with socialist construction. The methodology is based on historico-literary, historical, cultural, comparative, typological, and mythopoetic analysis. This analysis is conducted with reference to works of literature that provide an image of post-revolutionary families and models of mother (parents) – children relationships. The basic thesis of the analysis is that the concept of “emancipation of women” and the upbringing of a “new man” had a powerful life-constructing, constitutive, and utopian meaning. This gave rise to a new mythology of motherhood and infancy, where both parts correlate with and are supported, among other things, by high mass art. The author reveals criticism of the Soviet policy of motherhood and children in Platonov’s plays. The way in which myth is deconstructed in the comedy Fools on the Periphery is revealed through the collapse of an attempt by commune members to raise a child. Platonov shows the fetishization of a baby as a showpiece, and its death as a result of a utopian educational experiment. Promiscuity and juridical mess add to the world’s lack of foundation and total alienation. There is an apparent discrepancy with the 1930s myth about a happy mother-toiler in the play Fourteen Little Red Huts: mass starvation and children’s deaths leave their ever-caring mother, head of a collective farm, devastated. The semantics of a child victim and an inhabitant of a proletarian paradise are profaned: the abstract mankind of the future becomes an object of irony. Platonov uses parody, hyperbole, travesty, symbols, and plots based on casus in order to recodify the new mythology and establish new authentic humanistic and aesthetic values.


Keywords


Soviet ideology; motherhood; childhood; mythologizing of modern history; A. P. Platonov’s drama; deconstruction of the social myth; utopia; parody; travesty; symbol

References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2017.4.268

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