The 2017 Symposium

Depicting Communism for Children

Princeton University,
March 31 – April 1, 2017

144 Louis A. Simpson International Building

The Pedagogy of Images project started in 2015 with an exploratory symposium that mapped out approaches to studying the process of amalgamation of text and image within the boundaries of the illustrated book for young Soviet readers. As a part of the general desire to translate Communism into idioms and images accessible to children, these books visualized ideological norms and goals in a way that guaranteed easy legibility, without sacrificing the political appeal of the message.

Using a corpus of Soviet-era illustrated books for children from the collections of the Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University, the participants of the first meeting focused on the dual verbal-visual representation of the Communist imaginary and sensibility in early Soviet books. The initial symposium also had a second purpose: to achieve a more nuanced awareness of the ways in which digitization of these works can facilitate more exhaustive mining of the information contained in these rich graphic and verbal artifacts. An edited volume growing out of the work of this first symposium is currently in production.

The goal of the second symposium is to expand the generational boundaries of scholars working on early Soviet children’s books.  The following  proposals from advanced Ph.D. students and recent Ph.D. graduates  were selected for a two-day symposium that will take place at Princeton University on March 31- April 1, 2017.

The Symposium Program

Friday March 31, 2017

Panel I: 9:30-11:30 

Zdenko Mandušić (University of Chicago)
Cinema Made Known: Engaging Children in the Production of Films
Discussant: Yuri Leving (Dalhousie University)

Gabriella A. Ferrari (Princeton University)
Play and Display: Paper Show Rooms of Soviet Subjectivity
Discussant: Michael Kunichika (Harvard University)

11.45 – 12:30 – “The Fire Horse: Translating Soviet Children’s Poetry of the 1920s.”
A conversation with Eugene Ostashevsky  

Eugene Ostashevsky is the translator of The Fire Horse: Children’s Poems by Mayakovsky, Mandelstam and Kharms, just out from NYRB. His other translation credits include Alexander Vvedensky’s An Invitation for Me to Think, winner of the National Translation Award from ALTA, and OBERIU: An Anthology of Russian Absurdism. His latest book of poetry, The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi, investigates communication challenges in pirate-parrot relationships. A professor of Liberal Studies at NYU, Ostashevsky has also taught as the Siegfried Unseld Guest Professor at the Slavic Department of Humboldt University, Berlin.

1:30 – 2:30  A book viewing tour in Rare Books and Special Collections.

Panel II: 3:00-5:00  

Laura Todd (De Montfort University, UK)
“All the Nation is One Factory”: Little Workers, Material Life-Cycles, and Scientific Progress
Discussant: Aleksandar Bošković (Columbia University)

Polina Dimova (Oberlin College)
The Power of Light and Electric Shock: How Soviet Children Unraveled the Electric Plot Line
Discussant: Molly Brunson (Yale University)

Panel III: 5:15 – 6:15

Kirill Chunikhin (New Europe College, Romania)
From Magic to Disenchantment: Experimenting with Electricity in Soviet Children’s Books
Discussant: Aleksandar Bošković (Columbia University)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Panel IV: 9:30-11:30

Marina Alexandrova (University of Texas at Austin)
Nourishing the Young Communist Body: Baked Potatoes and an Occasional ‘Burzhui‘
Discussant: Marina Balina (Illinois Wesleyan University)

Cécile Pichon-Bonin (CNRS-Centre Georges Chevrier, Paris)
“Lenin Was a Boy!” / “Lenin Was Our Mom!”: Questioning (Un)gendered Identities
Discussant: Yuri Leving (Dalhousie University)


Panel V: 11.45 – 12.45 

Silja Pitkänen (University of Jyväskylä, Finland)
Uniformity in Uniforms: Children, Visual Propaganda, and Institutions in the Soviet Union and the Third Reich in the 1930s
Discussant: Marina Balina (Illinois Wesleyan University)

1:30-2:15 – Katherine M.H. Reischl (Princeton University):    Workshop for “Playing Soviet” Database

This interactive database represents the digital humanities side of the Pedagogy of Images project. The featured illustrations — from the Cotsen Collection at Princeton — have been selected and annotated by a diverse group of scholars and students of Russian and Soviet culture. Our workshop session aims to address the future of the site’s customizable data visualizations, potentially mapping relationships among artists, image types, color, style, and publication information.

Panel VI: 2:15-4:15

Meghanne Barker (University of Michigan)
Petrushka Goes to Preschool: Soviet Scriptive Things
Discussant: Molly Brunson (Yale University)

Carlotta Chenoweth (Yale University)
Vladimir Mayakovsky and Learning (Not) to Read
Discussant: Michael Kunichika (Harvard University)

Final Discussion: 4.15-4.45



The Organizing Committee:

Thomas F. Keenan
Serguei A. Oushakine 
Katherine M.H. Reischl 

The Symposium is supported by 

Princeton University Library
Cotsen Children’s Library
Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures
 Council of the Humanities
Program in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies
Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies