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Levidou, Ekaterini

The Encounter of Neoclassicism with Eurasianism in Interwar Paris: Stravinsky, Suvchinsky, and Lourié

DPhil, University of Oxford, 2008
(ekaterini.levidou@chch.ox.ac.uk)

This thesis offers a more nuanced understanding of the interwar neoclassical styles of Igor Stravinsky and Arthur Lourié by examining how they relate to Eurasianism, a Russian émigré ideology, articulated by a political movement with the same name. In order to do so, it concentrates on the contacts between Stravinsky, Lourié, and the intellectual, art critic and musicologist Petr Suvchinsky, and sheds light on the intellectual exchanges between them in the 1920s and 1930s – Suvchinsky and Lourié espoused Eurasianism. Their association, I argue, proved a catalyst for the development of the three men's artistic views and, more generally, for their world-views at that time.

On the one hand, the reception of Stravinsky's neoclassicism by Suvchinsky and Lourié played a fundamental role in shaping the Eurasianist cultural policy they proposed in their writings. On the other hand, Eurasianism was significant in moulding Stravinsky and Lourié's awareness of modernity – that is, their perception of the modern Western civilisation as decadent and despotic – and their modernist responses to the assumed crisis of the modern world in the form of their interwar neoclassicism. Eurasianism, more specifically, enhanced the spiritual orientation of their aesthetics, as I illustrate through an examination of Stravinsky's Oedipus rex and Lourié's Sinfonia dialectica. The thesis demonstrates that Eurasianism, an ideology of structuralist nature with a metaphysical vision, is a highly appropriate context within which to consider how the materialist and metaphysical constituents of Stravinsky and Lourié's neoclassical styles were synthesised.

Drawing on primary sources such as unpublished archival materials and contemporaneous writings, this thesis thus offers a novel perspective on Stravinsky and Lourié's interwar neoclassicism, by considering it in a Russian intellectual context. At the same time, it elucidates Eurasianism's outlook on cultural and artistic matters and, in particular, music. While underscoring the bond of Stravinsky and Lourié's neoclassicism with the Russian cultural and intellectual tradition, it ultimately illuminates Stravinsky and Lourié's relationship to modernism.