Medical science believed that neurasthenia was just one of the early indications of a much larger problem negatively impacting civilized society. This new science was concerned with degeneration theory, which argued that if a species could evolve, then it could also devolve. Simply stated neurasthenia was one of the signs of an individual’s physical, moral and psychological devolution. Following a discussion of the science of degeneration, attention is given to literary decadence. Degeneration emerged as scientific theory, but was soon incorporated into legal, political and literary discourse. The idea of a nation in a state of decline coincided with other cultural trends which viewed the end of the nineteenth century in apocalyptic terms. This chapter explores the development of the scientific discourse in order to better understand the context for Andreev’s diagnosis and concentrates on the broad outlines of literary decadence in order to support the assertion that Andreev and his works share similarities with European decadence.
By the first decade of the twentieth century, Russia was experiencing a decadent period of cultural degeneration. Simultaneous with this artistic response, science was developing ways to identify medical conditions that supposedly reflected the health of the entire nation. Leonid Andreev (1871–1919), the leading literary figure of his time, stepped into the breech of this scientific discourse with literary works about degenerates. The spirited social debates on mental illness, morality and sexual deviance which resulted from these works became part of the ongoing battle over the definition and depiction of the irrational, complicated by Andreev’s own publicized bouts with neurasthenia. Specific to the study is the way in which Andreev readily accepted and incorporated scientific conjecture into his cultural production and how these works were in turn cited by medical authorities as confirmation of their theories, creating a circular argument. This book demonstrates the implications of scientific discourse on Russian concepts of mental illness and national health. It examines the concept of pathology in Russia, the influence of European medical discourse, the development of Russian psychiatry, and the role that it had on popular culture by investigating the life and works of Andreev. Although widely discussed in its European context, degeneration theory has not been afforded the same scholarly attention in Russian cultural studies. As a result, this study extends and challenges scholarship on the Russian fin de siècle, the emergence of psychiatry as a new medical science, and the role that art played in the development of this objective science.
For most of 1912-13, Andreev suffered from constant migraines, insomnia and a pain in his arm. Finally in 1914, he decided to go to Rome with his wife Anna and their son Savva to convalesce. The final act of Andreev’s life was one of failing health and diminished artistic abilities. These problems were complicated further by war and revolution, which monopolized a great amount of Andreev’s attention. This chapter concentrates on the author’s Finnish diary, where the illness experience is once again at the fore, as well as Andreev’s own pursuit of treatment. As noted at the beginning of this study, if we examine Andreev’s narrative of illness from adolescent diary, through his literary works, to his final Finnish entries, we gain perspective on how neurasthenia influenced the author’s life and works.
As with most scholarly works on Leonid Andreev, we will begin with his birth and childhood, but where this study strikes a different cord is when we begin to examine Andreev’s adolescent diaries, which provide a personalized narrative of illness. Attention is given to Andreev’s illness narrative in order to suggest that melancholic episodes were the impetus for much of his abnormal behaviour. Recognizing the strong impact that bouts of melancholy had on Andreev’s personal life and literary output opens up nuanced moments of imbedded autobiography in his texts, which were enacted as a type of creative therapy, and provide a means for contextualizing the theme of madness in Andreev’s literary works.
Boccioni – Delaunay, interpretational error or Bergsonian practice?
The dispute opposing the Futurists and Robert Delaunay focused on notions that were discussed among the avant-garde and gave those artists the opportunity to define their own conception of simultaneity. This dispute demonstrated the overlapping of trends in contemporary art, and the artists' endeavours to distinguish themselves from one another when critics tended to confuse and assimilate the Delaunay's creative process with that of the Italian Futurists. The point of the dispute was first of all to prove the precedence of the Futurists' pictorial innovations over Delaunay's. Secondly, the debates it provoked revealed some interpretational errors in the way some driving principles were received at the time, including Michel-Eugene Chevreul's law of simultaneous contrasts and complementary colours, but above all Henri Bergson's theories about duration and intuition. Exchanging views with Umberto Boccioni led Delaunay to clarify his ideas about simultaneous contrasts as opposed to the Italian painter's understanding of simultaneity.
The Futurist manifesto as avant-garde advertisement
This chapter argues that Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's practice, especially as maker and instigator of manifestos, was remarkably in tune with the latest developments in both advertising practice and theory. Fortunato Depero published one of the masterpieces of Futurist self-promotion, the book Depero Futurista, which contained a highly stylised retort to those who felt Futurism blurred the lines between high and low art to the detriment of the avant-garde project. When comparing the methods of suggestive advertising with Futurist manifestos, a key aspect of Walter Dill Scott's theory is the concept that 'the power of any object to attract our attention depends on the intensity of the sensation aroused'. The chapter concludes that there was a strong correlation between the emerging fields of psychology, advertising, and the Italian avant-garde.
As Andreev began to rebuild his life around his new family in Vammelsuu, various ideas from his earlier works started to coalesce in coherent and consistent ways. In dramatic and literary works of this period the performance is a way of interacting with madness in an attempt to hide its effects from the public, because there exists the threat of incarceration for those deemed abnormal or dangerous (including the insane), therefore verisimilitude (giving a truth that the public wants to see) is necessary to avoid the stigma of madness. In this chapter, I argue that by maintaining the appearance of normalcy, Andreev wished to avoid the criticism à la Max Nordau that the author was as morally corrupt as his decadent works of art.
The work of Fernand Leger, La noce (or Les noces), was first exhibited at the Salon under the title Composition avec personnages. The Salon was held one month after the Futurist exhibition at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery in Paris. The 1912 Futurist exhibition catalogue The Exhibitors to the Public, is thus prefaced by a violent criticism of Cubist paintings. This chapter suggests that Leger's painting was situated at a crossroads not only between Cubism and Futurism but also within the broader avant-garde context, where several iconographic and stylistic affinities intersect. Among these, the subject of the wedding party was treated in other avant-garde paintings, revealing affinities with Leger's La noce. By 1911 the avant-garde in general had adopted some form of Bergsonism, if sometimes skewed or schematised. Henri Bergson's L'evolution creatrice was discussed in particular by the Puteaux group.
This chapter examines the traces of a wide array of interpretations and misinterpretations that Futurism triggered in Germany, and the effect they had on defining a new model of avant-garde practice. When the Futurists first appeared in Germany in 1912, the majority of their works were acquired by the banker Wolfgang Borchardt through the intercession of Herwarth Walden. The overabundance of emotive elements in the artwork, which Paul Fechter saw as a symptom of Futurism's inferiority to Expressionism, became the basis for representing the most contemporary of phenomena, metropolitan chaos. Futurism could not be dismissed as the oldest (and unfulfilled) element of a dialectical opposition on the path of progressive history, as was the case with Expressionism. Through Bruitism, Dadaism attempted to englobe and assimilate Futurism not as an external temporal reference but as an internal practice and mindset.
This chapter investigates the history of Futurist performance. The serate, Futurist Variety Theatre and Theatre of Essential Brevity were all designed to break down the stilted traditions of virtuosity acting and the stultifying conventions of dramatic literature. The Futurists managed to demolish a system characterised by histrionic excess and artistic debility and instead created an avant-garde form of theatre that invaded society and helped to mould a modern civilisation. In the manifesto of 1913, The Variety Theatre, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti summed up a number of innovative features of the genre and outlined how it could serve his fight against the traditionalist theatre in his home country. He felt that nothing contradicted the rules of Aristotelian dramaturgy more than the heterogeneous mixture of numbers performed in a Variety show.