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Fall 2022 - Class Option #2

Revolutions: Visualizing Radicalism (Moscow, Madrid, Mexico)

This course examines the travelling aesthetics and politics of radicalism triggered by the Russian (1917) and Mexican (1910) social and cultural revolutions, up to their internationalist conundrums materializing around the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). It follows an interdisciplinary and comparative approach engaging with Russian, Latin American, and European critical theory, visual arts, and literature. Prospective field trips may include visits to the Russian avant-garde collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, Diego Rivera's Industry Murals at the Detroit Institute of the Arts, and Mexican-American muralism in the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen. (Note: the Kaplan Institute pays for field trips.) We will examine the continuity of radical aesthetics and politics in works situated on the borderline of art, literature, film, monumentality, and propaganda, both understood in their historical background and rethought in the context of the cultural and social issues the world is facing today.

Sample texts


Sergei Einsenstein, October (1928), Que viva México! (1930)

Esfir Shub, Spain (1939)

André Malraux, Espoir: Sierra de Teruel (1938-1939)

Luis Buñuel, Las Hurdes (1933)


Vladimir Mayakovski, Aleksandr Blok, poetry

Nellie Campobello, Cartucho (1931)

Federico García Lorca, The House of Bernarda Alba (1936)

John Reed, 10 Days That Shook the World (1919)

Visual Art

Murals by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Josep Renau

Russian Constructivist and Production art

Avant-garde Books by El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich, and others

Ephemeral and Performative Art

Revolutionary Posters

Agitation Trains

Transient Monuments

World Exhibitions

Soviet, Mexican and Spanish pavilions at the Paris World's Fair (1937), including the first-ever exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica 


Miguel Caballero (PhD Princeton University, 2017) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Currently finishing a book manuscript on monumentality, conservationism, and iconoclasm titled The Monument of Tomorrow. Conservation and the Avant-Garde in the Spanish Civil War. He also has an online activist platform on HIV-AIDS from a sex-positive perspective called ASS (Amor, Sexo y Serología), a topic which he is currently turning into an academic project as well. He is interested in  modernism and the avant-garde; the relations between literature, philosophy and the visual arts; psychoanalysis; medical humanities; and museum studies.  

Nina Gurianova is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. Her scholarship in the fields of literature and art history encompasses both Russian and European modernist and avant-garde movements, with a specific emphasis on the interrelation and mutual influence of aesthetics and politics. Another, no less important problem she addresses deals with the profound symbiosis of the literary and the visual. Her work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, the Society of Fellows at Harvard University, William F. Milton Fund, and IREX.

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