“That’s Not the Only Reason We Love Him”: Queer Politics and Chaikovsky Reception in Post-Soviet Russia

Professor Philip Ross Bullock, who is a professor of Russian Literature and Music at Oxford University’s Wadham College, will be giving a talk on Queer Politics and Chaikovsky Reception in Post-Soviet Russia. Professor Bullock’s talk will explore questions surrounding the writing and reception of Tchaikovsky’s biography in Russia, especially in the light of the 2013 legislation outlawing the propaganda of so-called ‘non-traditional’ sexualities. Drawing on a wide range of published and internet sources, he will examine tensions between documentary approaches to the composer’s life on the one hand, and popular responses that have frequently resisted scholarly narratives on the other. Since 1991, a substantial body of archival documents has appeared in print, including unexpurgated editions of many of Tchaikovsky’s letters and diaries, yet many people have decried this process, and others still have attempted to disprove their contents, or denounce them as forgeries.

Much of this discussion takes place in blogs, websites, and internet postings and is confined to a vocal subsection of private citizens. Yet their views often intersect with an official political discourse that is also often virulently homophobic. Thus, analysis of the popular reception of Tchaikovsky’s biography allows us to ask whether the Russian internet represents a site of resistance to official politics, or whether it can also magnify an officially legitimated homophobia. It also allows us to examine how the biographies of Russia’s queer figures are not just objects of scholarly inquiry, but can also play a part in the creation of powerful emotional, affective, and aesthetic narratives that can contribute to the cause of equal rights, even at a time of official disapproval.

✽ Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, 4:15pm | Griffin 7

Sponsored by: The Center for Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, the Department of German and Russian, Global Studies, The History Department, the Music Department, the Program in Comparative Literature, and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies

Chaikovsky Poster