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From Orientalism to Cultural Capital

The Myth of Russia in British Literature of the 1920s

Olga Soboleva and Angus Wrenn

From Orientalism to Cultural Capital presents a fascinating account of the wave of Russophilia that pervaded British literary culture in the early twentieth century. The authors bring a new approach to the study of this period, exploring the literary phenomenon through two theoretical models from the social sciences: Orientalism and the notion of «cultural capital» associated with Pierre Bourdieu. Examining the responses of leading literary practitioners who had a significant impact on the institutional transmission of Russian culture, they reassess the mechanics of cultural dialogism, mediation and exchange, casting new light on British perceptions of modernism as a transcultural artistic movement and the ways in which the literary interaction with the myth of Russia shaped and intensified these cultural views.

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The Only Hope of the World

George Bernard Shaw and Russia

Olga Soboleva and Angus Wrenn

George Bernard Shaw is commonly regarded as one of the most controversial intellectuals of the first half of the twentieth century. Known for the ambiguity of his statements and the seeming inconsistency of his views, there was, nevertheless, one idea to which the British dramatist remained constant throughout his life: his long-term enthusiasm for Russia and his firm belief that the Russians would ‘give the world back its lost soul’. Moved by the Russian cultural tradition, he found inspiration in the morally charged writings of Tolstoy and Gorky, and sent a copy of his Back to Methuselah to Lenin. The Soviet utopia fascinated him, and he made a much-publicised journey to the USSR to see the results of socialist construction, remaining for the rest of his life an unrepentant advocate of Stalin’s policies. Focusing on detailed textual analysis, this book traces the Russian sources that contributed to the formation of Shaw’s literary style. By reflecting on these parallels, as well as by drawing on archive reports in the Russian and Western media, the authors attempt to establish the extent to which Shaw’s obsession with the socialist cause affected the evolving character of his dramatic output. The book also explores the enduring positive reception of Shaw’s plays on the Russian stage.