a term used to describe the official artistic doctrine adopted at the Congress of Soviet Writers in 1934, and approved by Stalin, Gorky, Bukharin, and Zhdanov. It required that the creative artist should serve the Revolution by presenting positive images of socialist possibility; it denigrated the bourgeois artist and all forms of experimentalism and formalism as degenerate, subjective, and pessimistic. (The works of Joyce were singled out for particular condemnation.) The doctrine presented problems for philosophical Marxist critics like Lukács, who opted for the study of nineteenth-century realism and kept silent about most of his contemporaries. After the hard Stalinist period the use of the term was modified to cover the works of such artistic innovators as Brecht and Mayakovsky; but it is still seen in the Western world as a denial of creativity and freedom of expression, above the freedom to represent darkness or despair. ‘Social realism’ is a distinct term, used loosely to describe a purportedly objective, yet socially aware and detailed representation of reality.
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