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A windmill on the west: the critiquing of western culture in Meyerhold’s production of the magnanimous cuckold, Moscow 1922
The 1922 Moscow production of Fernand Crommelynck’s farce The Magnanimous Cuckold, directed by Vsevolod Meyerhold with sets and costumes by the Constructivist artist Liubov Popova, is regarded as a theatrical milestone. Yet critics have largely, and problematically, dismissed the play itself as a non-political “boulevard comedy.” In 1922, the Russian avant-garde was immersed in politics, engaged in inculcating socialist values into everyday life through art. This thesis argues that Crommelynck’s intent was in fact political, reflecting his post-World War I doubts about the “superiority” of European culture. Meyerhold seized on that theme and enhanced it with a bare bones “workers’” production skewering the bourgeois West. This thesis also argues that the Constructivist project of “art into life” ultimately came to nothing, and that what followed—Socialist Realism—marked a profound rejection of the avantgarde’s proclaimed goal of infusing art into what Marx termed the social relations of production.