Theses Doctoral

Present Perfect: (Post)Humanism and the Search for the New Man in Soviet and Post-Soviet Fantastika

Haxhi, Tomi

Present Perfect is part intellectual history of the discourse of humanism in twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century Russian culture, and part cultural history of the New Man in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia, looking primarily at works of Soviet and post-Soviet fantastika (science fiction and fantasy). The study employs a critical posthumanist methodology drawn from the work of Jean-François Lyotard, and his concept of “rewriting” modernity (here transformed into “rewriting humanism”), and the posthumanist theorization of scholars like Rosi Braidotti and Stefan Hebrechter.

The first chapter covers the pre- and post-revolutionary periods, the second chapter the post-Stalinist period, and the third the post-Soviet. The first chapter looks at critiques of humanism in the non-fictional works of religious philosophers and writers (Fedorov, Berdiaev, Ivanov, Merezhkovsky), Soviet ideologues and writers (Lunacharsky, Trotsky, Bukharin, Gorky), and some writers who fall between the two poles (Blok, Mandelshtam, Lezhnev), and covers texts published between 1906 and 1934. The second chapter deals with the works of the Strugatsky brothers’ Noon Universe series (1961-86) and the figure of the “Progressor” as the New Man. The third chapter looks at novels by three authors: Petrushevskaya’s Nomer Odin (2004), Pelevin’s S.N.U.F.F. (2011), and Sorokin’s Ice trilogy (2002-05).

These works attest to the inextricable interpenetration of the posthuman with the human, of posthumanism with humanism, of the post-Soviet with the Soviet. The study demonstrates how humanism and posthumanism function dialectically: in the best-case scenario, they negate one another to come to a more whole understanding of the human; in the worst-case scenario, this dialectic creates an increasingly more exclusive humanism that reserves the title of ideal subject for fewer and fewer. Moreover, Present Perfect argues that the New Man (that “ideal subject”) in Soviet and post-Soviet fiction is best conceptualized as a field of competing discourses, which fall along three lines of development: the animal-man, the machine-man, and the god-man, each with their own critical orientation toward humanism. In both the Soviet and post-Soviet context, writers like the Strugatsky brothers, Petrushevskaya, Pelevin, and Sorokin employ a critical posthumanism to demonstrate, on the one hand, how the New Man is used as a tool for discursive domination that denies otherness, and on the other, how the New Man can be reconceptualized as a tool for a liberatory ethics that affirms it.


  • thumnail for Haxhi_columbia_0054D_18128.pdf Haxhi_columbia_0054D_18128.pdf application/pdf 1.05 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Slavic Languages
Thesis Advisors
Lipovetsky, Mark
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 18, 2023