USC Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies

2019 Recipient

Maria Taroutina

The Icon and the Square: Russian Modernism and the Russo-Byzantine Revival

The University of Southern California Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies, established in 2009 and sponsored by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Southern California, is awarded annually for an outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eastern Europe, or Eurasia in the fields of literary and cultural studies in the previous calendar year.

Winner: Maria Taroutina
Title: The Icon and the Square: Russian Modernism and the Russo-Byzantine Revival (Penn State University Press)

In 1913, the Moscow Archeological Institute reinvented Russian art history, indeed the icon itself, with its Exhibition of Ancient Russian Art, which included 147 icons from private collections soon to be acquired by the Imperial Russian Museum. In 1915 in Petrograd, several blocks away from the Museum, Kazimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin shocked the art world with their reinventions of the icon at the 0:10 Last Futurist Exhibit of Painting. So antithetical in their aims, aesthetics, and politics, the two events marked a turn in the course of Russian art that continues to influence artists across the globe.

In The Icon and the Square, Maria Taroutina traces the origins of the RussoByzantine revivalist movement that led to the 1913 unveiling of Russia’s Quattrocento and the 1915 re-imagining that unveiling inspired in the Russian avant-garde. Integrating volumes of Russian scholarship, most of which has never been translated into English, with museology, and the theories of today’s leading Byzantinists, Taroutina weaves a compelling narrative of two centuries of art and politics—from Voronikhin and Thon to Pussy Riot and the Sinie nosy—that brilliantly accomplishes its goal of proposing “a new set of cultural coordinates from which to interrogate both the inherent mechanisms and theoretical underpinnings of Russian modernism.” In addition to rigorously researched scholarship, Taroutina offers deft analyses of artistic technique and form, which she situates in the broader context of intellectual and art history. Skillfully organized, meticulously researched, accessibly written, and exquisitely illustrated, Taroutina’s contribution serves student and specialist, historian and artist, Russianist and globalist, challenging with erudition and innovation prevailing opinion on the motivations, inspirations, and trajectories of Russian modernism.

Honorable Mention: Edyta M. Bojanowska