"Literatura po poniatiiam": Examining Prison Slang in Russian Literature

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0003-0644-0851
Maxwell, Alex, Slavic Languages and Literatures - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Tolczyk, Dariusz, AS-Slavic Languages & Lit, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines three major periods in Russian literature (late 19th century, the Soviet period, and the post-Soviet period) with the aim of understanding their relationship to the popularization of prison speech in Russian literature between 1990 and 2010. It traces the history of criminal speech through works of lexicography in tandem with a literary analysis of major works of literature concerned with the subject in each of the three time periods in question. The developmental arc of such language is outlined to have progressed from little familiarity and societal rejection, to gradual popularization via the Soviet prison and labor camp experiment and its aftermath, to widespread acceptance and comfortable and fluid use by speakers of Russian in the post-Soviet world, which allowed writers like Viktor Pelevin to utilize such language as a meaning-rich literary device. The dissertation also offers further directions for scholarship, including sentiment analysis of works of GULAG and post-GULAG literature, a comparative analysis of works written by former GULAG inmates and former GULAG guards, and a study of aestheticization of prison and criminal speech and culture.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
slang, jargon, postmodernism, GULAG, Soviet Union, Russia, Russian Literature
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