Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

SOONER SPEAKING THAN SILENT, SOONER SILENT THAN MUTE: SOVIET DEAF THEATRE AND PANTOMIME AFTER STALIN

Abstract

A television documentary on speech therapy is visible on the screen. A logopedist (speech-defect expert) coaches a young man to overcome his stutter through hypnosis. “You will speak loudly and clearly, freely and easily, unafraid of your voice and your speech,” she instructs. The boy hesitates but finally musters the words: “I can speak.” Thus Andrei Tarkovsky begins Zerkalo [Mirror], his poetic film about personal memory and cultural trauma (conceived in 1964 and completed in 1974).3 The symbolism of this scene was impossible for Tarkovsky's Soviet intelligentsia audience to miss. The stutterer coming to speech allegorized the artist coming to free expression in Russia after Stalin, struggling to adapt to alternating intervals of liberating “thaw” and oppressive “freeze,” fluency and silence, in the period of de-Stalinization that Nikita Khrushchev's secret speech at the 20th Party Congress of 1956 set into motion. The crisis of the solo stutterer's speech in the film stood in for the larger emerging crisis of how to represent socialist reality, a world that once had been captured solely by socialist realism—that is, until Khrushchev deprived Stalinism of its status as real socialism and thus invalidated the basis of socialist realism.

Copyright
Corresponding author
akayiatos@berkeley.edu
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Robert W. Corrigan , “The Theatre in Search of a Fix,” Tulane Drama Review 5.4 (June 1961): 2135, at 29

Susan Burch's excellent survey of deaf education and culture: “Transcending Revolutions: The Tsars, the Soviets, and Deaf Culture,” Journal of Social History 34.2 (2000): 393401

Galina Zaitseva , Michael Pursglove , and Susan Gregory , “Vygotsky, Sign Language, and the Education of Deaf Pupils,” Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education 4.1 (1999): 914

Judith Butler , “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,” Theatre Journal 40.4 (December 1988): 519

David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder , Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001)

Lilya Kaganovsky , “The Voice of Technology and the End of Soviet Silent Film: Grigorii Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg's Alone,” Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema 1.3 (2007): 265–81

Tobin Siebers constructs a similarly chiasmic model of disability in Disability Theory (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2008)

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Theatre Survey
  • ISSN: 0040-5574
  • EISSN: 1475-4533
  • URL: /core/journals/theatre-survey
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×