On “Violent Expressionism” and Prose with Prostheses


  • Leonid Heller




Andrei Platonov; Russian prose of the 1920s–1930s; expressionism; prosthetic corporality; prosthetic culture; teratology; deformity in art; representation of disability


Referring to Andrei Platonov’s The Foundation Pit and Happy Moscow, the author considers these two works through the prism of 1920s and 1930s literature and maintains that they display features of expressionism in the way they represent corporality. The writer’s words about the “wonderful and violent” world are a motivating factor in the aspects of his poetics connected with the term “violent expressionism”. First, this applies to the theme of prosthetics considered both by Platonov’s contemporaries (K. Fedin, L. Leonov) and writers of later periods (B. Polevoy, V. Shalamov, A. Zinovyev). Comparative analysis helps the article’s author to prove that representations of bodies with prostheses form a powerful literary topos that transforms social, political, and ideological material and is capable of symbolising the uniqueness or/and fragility of the human body and the vagueness of its borders. Analysing the correlation between prostheses and teratology, representations of disability and the tradition of deformity, realist (social realist) and expressionist concepts, the author concludes that “prose with prostheses” helps us to perceive Russian literature in a new way.

Author Biography

Leonid Heller

Dr. Hab. (Philology), Professor, University of Lausanne.

CH-1015, Lausanne, Switzerland.



Albrecht, G. L., Ravaud, J.-F., Stiker, H.-J. (2001). L’émergence des disability studies : état des lieux et perspectives. In Sciences sociales et santé. Vol. 19. No. 4, pp. 43‒73.

Armstrong, T. (1998). Modernism, Technology, and the Body: A Cultural Study. Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Press. 309 p.

Bösl, E., Klein, A., Waldschmidt, A. (Hrsg.). (2010). Disability History : Konstruktionen von Behinderung in der Geschichte. Eine Einführung. Bielefeld, Transcript. 124 S.

Burenina, О. (2005). Organopoetika: anatomicheskie anomalii v literature i kul’ture 1900–1930-kh godov [Organo-poetics: Anatomical Anomalies in the Literature and Culture of 1900s–1930s]. In Kabakova, G., Conte, F. (Eds.). Telo v russkoi kul’ture. Мoscow, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, pp. 300–323.

CNRS-iaTranshumanisme: L’humain et ses prothèses : savoirs et pratiques du corps transformé. 11 et 12 décembre 2015, Paris. In Transhumanisme et Intelligence artificielle [website]. URL: https://iatranshumanisme.com/2016/06/05/colloque-internationallhumain-et-ses-protheses-savoirs-et-pratiques-du-corps-transforme/ (mode of access: 20.02.2018).

Davis, L. J. (Ed.). (1997). The Disability Studies Reader. N. Y., Routledge. 451 p.

Fedin, K. (1969). Goroda i gody (1924) [Cities and Years (1924)]. In Fedin, K. Sobranie sochinenii v 10 t. Moscow, Khudozhestvennaya literatura. Vol. 1. 448 p.

Fefelov, V. (1986). V SSSR invalidov net! [There are no Disabled People in the USSR!]. L., ΟРΙ. 164 p.

Gardou, Ch. (2014). Handicap, une encyclopédie des savoirs. Toulouse, Erès. 472 p.

Günther, H. (2003). K estetike tela u Platonova (1930-e gg.) [Platonov’s Body Aesthetics (1930s)]. In Kornienko, N. (Ed.). “Strana filosofov” Andreya Platonova: problemy tvorchestva. Moscow, Institut mirovoi literatury RAN. Iss. 5, pp. 76‒84.

Heller, L. (2001). Organoproektsiya: v poiskakh chelovekomira [Organ Projection: Searching for an Anthropocosmos]. In Franz, N., Hagemeister, M., Haney, F. (Hrsg.). Pavel Florenskij – Tradition und Moderne. Frankfurt a/M, Peter Lang, pp. 283–301.

Heller, L. (2006). Contours de l’animal, contours de la modernité. In Mélat, H. (Ed.). Le premier quinquennat de la prose russe du XXIe siècle. Paris, Institut d’études slaves, pp. 107‒121.

Heller, L. (2006). Oboroten’ : iz natsional’nykh mifov [The Werewolf : From National Myths]. In Slavic Almanac. The South African Journal for Slavic, Central and European Studies. Vol. 12. No. 2, pp. 134–146.

Heller, L. (2009). О protezakh i paradigme Novogo Cheloveka [Of Prostheses and the Paradigm of the New Man]. In Faustov, A. (Ed.). Universalii russkoi kul’tury. Voronezh, Izdatel’stvo Voronezhskogo universiteta, pp. 59–75.

Heller, L. (2017). Platonov : revolyutsiya, utopiya, nasilie [Platonov: Revolution, Utopia, Violence]. In Yablokov, E. (Ed.). Skrytaya teplota revolyutsii. Moscow, Polimedia, pp. 7–24.

Heller, L. (2018). Mir, v kotorom my zhivem. О monstrakh i mifakh [The World We Live in. Monsters and Myths]. In La Fortelle de, A. (Ed.). Privideniya, dukhi i drugie sushchestva. Metamorfozy fantastiki v slavyanskikh literaturakh: sbornik nauchnykh trudov. Moscow, Ob”edinennoe gumanitarnoe izdatel’stvo, pp. 20‒64.

Iarskaya-Smirnova, E., Romanov, P. (2014). Heroes and Spongers: The Iconography of Disability in Soviet Poster and Film. In Rasell, M., Iarskaya-Smirnova, E. (Eds.). Disability in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. History, Policy and Everyday Life. L., Routledge, 67‒96.

Kravetskii, А. (2013). Rasshirennyi chelovek [An Extended Human]. In Odnako [internet-blog]. Jan., 24. URL : http://www.odnako.org/blogs/rasshirenniy-chelovek/ (mode of access: 08.09.2018).

Kuznetsov, Е. (2003). Valaamskaya tetrad’ [Notebook from Valaam Island]. St Petersburg, Rostok. 138 p.

Leonov, L. M. (1982). Sot’ [The Sot River]. In Leonov, L. M. Sobranie sochinenii v 10 t. Moscow, Khudozhestvennaya literatura. Vol. 4, pp. 7‒284.

Lotka, A. J. (1945). The Law of Evolution as the Maximal Principle. In Human Biology. Vol. 17, pp. 167‒194.

Lury, C. (1998). Prosthetic Culture: Photography, Memory and Identity. L., Routledge. 248 p.

Nagibin, Yu. (1994a). Eshche o Platonove [Once more on Platonov]. In Andrei Platonov: Vospominaniya sovremennikov. Moscow, Sovetskii pisatel’, pp. 74‒78.

Nagibin, Yu. (1994b). Buntashnyi ostrov [The Rebel Island]. Moscow, Moskovskii rabochii. In LibRu: biblioteka Maksima Moshkova [website]. URL: http://www.lib.ru/PROZA/NAGIBIN/bogoyar.txt (mode of access: 07.09.2018).

Platonov, А. P. (2008‒2011). Sobranie sochinenii v 8 t. [Collected Works. 8 Vols.] / ed. by N. V. Kornienko, E. V. Antonov. Moscow, Vremya.

Polevoi, B. (2010). Povest’ о nastoyashchem cheloveke [A Story about a Real Man]. Moscow, Ast-Astrel. 382 p.

Prokof’eva, V. (2014). Semanticheskoe pole ‘telesnost’’: roman А. Platonova “Schastlivaya Moskva” [The Semantical Field of Corporality. A. Platonov’s Novel Happy Moscow]. In Vestnik Tomskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. No. 388, pp. 24‒29.

Shalamov, V. (N. d.). Protezy [Prostheses]. In Varlam Shalamov [website]. URL: https://shalamov.ru/library/1/26.html (mode of access: 06.09.2018).

Smith, M., Morra, J. (Eds.). (2005). The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press. 340 p.

Song Jong Su (2003). Roman “Schastlivaya Moskva” v kontekste tvorchestva A. P. Platonova 1930-kh gg. [The Novel Happy Moscow in the Context of A. P. Platonov’s Creative Work of the 1930s]. Avtoreferat dis. … kand. filol. nauk. Moscow, S. n. 228 p.

Stroganov, М. (2017). Invalid i voina v russkoi kul’ture XX veka [Wounded Warriors and War in 20th-century Russian Culture]. In Kul’tura i tekst. No. 3, pp. 84‒108.

Tolkovyi slovar’ Ushakova [Ushakov’s Explanatory Dictionary] [website]. (N. d.). URL: http://ushakovdictionary.ru/ (mode of access: 28.10.2018).

Zinov’ev, А. (1989). Zhivi [Live!]. Lausanne, L’Age d’Homme. 199 p.



How to Cite

Heller, L. (2019). On “Violent Expressionism” and Prose with Prostheses. Quaestio Rossica, 7(1), 171–186. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2019.1.370



Problema voluminis