In this article, I analyze the character of hyper-naturalism and exaggerated tactility in dramatic poems by contemporary Russian-Georgian philosopher and writer Keti Chukhrov. I argue that, while descriptions of violence, physiological functions, and abject poverty are common for post-Soviet art, in Chukhrov’s work these elements perform radically different task than in the pessimistic and de-ideologized chernukha, or the style of grim realism. Her approach to matter is also distinct from the historic Russian avant-garde tradition, which relished intensified sensations but did not offer constructive ways of inscribing their immediacy into coherent cultural continuity. Instead, her dramatic poems bear pedagogical, even rehabilitative stakes for recuperating the individual sensations of alienated people into meaningful and shared cultural experiences. In this article, I discuss her approach to drama as mobilizing the tradition of Soviet Marxist defectology, a special educational method of socializing disabled, cognitively impaired, or otherwise disadvantaged people. Pioneered in the Soviet Union in the 1920s by Lev Vygotsky and suppressed in the 1930s, defectology found further application in the 1960s and 1970s in the work of the Zagorsk boarding school for the deafblind, led by Vygotsky’s student Alexander Mescheriakov and Evald Ilyenkov, a Marxist-Hegelian philosopher who is a central figure for Chukhrov’s philosophical research. One of the key tasks of Meshcheriakov and Ilyenkov was to help their deafblind students to overcome isolation through learning to translate their purely tactile sensations into deliberate communicative acts. While Zagorsk offered Ilyenkov an opportunity to test and apply his theory of the collectivist formation of personality, for Chukhrov it is theater that has become the sphere for experimental, practical extension of her scholarly research into Soviet Marxist thought and socialist culture of the 1960s and 1970s. Her dramatic texts offer models of alternative subjectivization for post-Soviet people to allow themselves once again to recognize the presence of universal values and greater cultural commons behind individual, alienated sensations and experiences.
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