Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Anne Dwyer

Reader 2

Larissa Rudova

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Rights Information

© 2012 Maria Karen Whittle


Soviet writer Vasilii Grossman has been renowned in the West as a dissident author of Life and Fate, which multiple sources, including The New York Times have called "arguably the greatest Russian novel of the 20th century." Grossman, however, was not a dissident, but an official state writer attempting to publish for a Soviet audience. Grossman's work was criticized by Soviets as being "too Jewish", while Jewish scholars have called it "not Jewish enough." And, despite his modern critical acclaim, little scholarship on Grossman exists. In my thesis, I explore these paradoxes. I argue that Grossman attempts to reinterpret traditional state ideas of Sovietness into a more inclusive, democratic version by creating heroes from traditionally marginalized groups. To do this, he reinterprets and inverts traditional tropes of the Socialist Realist genre. Genric limitations on his worldview, however, prevent this vision from being completely realized in the course of his work. I trace Grossman's work from his early short fiction to his Khruschev era novels and show how this trope develops during his career as a Soviet writer and citizen.