Masculine Style: Vladimir Mayakovsky's Poetics of Virility

Research output: Book/ReportAuthored book


Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893–1930) scandalized the Russian literary world upon his poetic debut in “Slap in the Face of Public Taste” in 1912. A member of the avant-garde Hylaea group of Futurists, he produced poetry with striking innovations in language and rhyme, as well as startling sexual and violent imagery. He courted notoriety not only through his avant-garde writing, but also through the cultivation of a public persona willing to transgress boundaries of decency and taste, including the gender codes of the day. His gendered self-presentation in these early years was ambivalent: he often sported a flamboyant yellow blouse in his performances, yet he joined his fellow Futurists in calling for—and attempting to create—tougher, more virile forms of art. After the October Revolution, this one-time enfant terrible employed his rhetoric of virility to different ends, styling himself as a poet-worker writing in the service of the state, though his relationship with Soviet power remained an uneasy one.

So successful was Mayakovsky’s self-mythologization that critics have continued to regard him as a “virile” poet rather than challenging the myth. Instead of providing another paean to Maiakovskii’s virility, this book seeks to historicize and deconstruct it by bringing the lens of contemporary gender theory to his work. Far from seeing masculinity as an inherent trait of the poet, I rather demonstrate how he consciously invents and reinvents his own style of masculinity, both in his public persona and his writing. He imagines himself now as a coquettish fop enticing women, now as a bearish man unable to adapt to modernity, now as an exemplary Soviet worker manfully fulfilling his labor quota by writing poetry, to name just a few of his guises.

In part, this book aims to show how the poet used these performances of masculinity to negotiate the various ideologies of masculinity that existed in his era, sometimes complying with them, sometimes reworking or resisting them. However, Mayakovsky not only engaged with masculinity through creating representations of himself and other men, but also strove to create poetic forms that would themselves embody virility. My title, Masculine Style, signals my intention to analyze not only how the poet employed various images of masculinity to craft his own image—his personal style—but also to address how his formal concerns—his literary style—impinge on issues of masculinity. Ultimately, my book not only offers a fresh interpretation of one of Russia’s greatest poets, but also provides a new theoretical framework for understanding the relationship between masculinity, metaphor, and poetry.

This book is in preparation and publication is expected in 2022.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2020


  • Russian literature
  • poetry
  • masculinity
  • gender studies
  • metaphor


Dive into the research topics of 'Masculine Style: Vladimir Mayakovsky's Poetics of Virility'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this