The early decades of the nineteenth century in Imperial Russia embraced a sequence of catastrophic events--the assassination of Paul I, Napoleon's invasion, the Decembrist rebellion, the cholera epidemic, the Polish uprising--along with radical changes in the fabric of society. Yet, far from exhausted by these convulsions, Russian literature blossomed as never before, producing the first in the long line of novels now regarded as masterpieces throughout the world. With all the sentimentality, nostalgia, and mythic echoes the term evokes, posterity has called this the golden age of Russian letters.
William Mills Todd describes the ideology of the educated westernized gentry (obshchestvo) of the time, then charts the various possibilities for literary life: first patronage, the salons, popular literature; then the rapid emergence of an incipient literary profession, which was encouraged by copyright laws, journals and booksellers, and an increasing readership. Through an examination of three brilliant fictions--Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time, and Gogol's Dead Souls--he explores the complicated interactions of literature and society as these writers "discovered" their own milieu and were discovered by it, confronting the fragility, exclusiveness, and potential for hypocrisy and self-delusion in Russian culture. Todd's interdisciplinary approach will ensure his book's appeal to students of comparative and other national literatures as well as of Russian culture.
When one great author engages another, as Andrei Bely so brilliantly does in Gogol’s Artistry, the result is inevitably a telling portrait of both writers. So it is in Gogol’s Artistry. Translated into English for the first time, this idiosyncratic, exhaustive critical study is as interesting for what it tells us about Bely’s thought and method as it is for its insights into the oeuvre of his literary predecessor. Bely’s argument in this book is that Gogol’s earlier writing should be given more consideration than most critics have granted. Employing what might be called a scientific perspective, Bely considers how often certain colors appear; he diagrams sentences and discusses Gogol’s prose in terms of mathematical equations. The result, as strange and engaging as Bely’s best fiction, is also an innovative, thorough, and remarkably revealing work of criticism.
No other writer captured the fraught relations between Ukrainian and Russian nationalisms with as much complexity and lasting relevance as Nikolai Gogol. This pathbreaking book illuminates the deep cultural stakes of today’s geopolitical conflict.
The nineteenth-century author Nikolai Gogol occupies a key place in the Russian cultural pantheon as an ardent champion of Russian nationalism. Indeed, he created the nation’s most famous literary icon: Russia as a rushing carriage, full of elemental energy and limitless potential.
In a pathbreaking book, Edyta M. Bojanowska topples the foundations of this russocentric myth of the Ukrainian-born writer, a myth that has also dominated his Western image. She reveals Gogol’s creative engagement with Ukrainian nationalism and calls attention to the subversive irony and ambiguity in his writings on Russian themes. While in early writings Gogol endowed Ukraine with cultural wholeness and a heroic past, his Russia appears bleak and fractured. Russian readers resented this unflattering contrast and called upon him to produce a brighter vision of Russia. Gogol struggled to satisfy their demands but ultimately failed.
In exploring Gogol’s fluctuating nationalist commitments, this book traces the connections and tensions between the Russian and Ukrainian nationalist paradigms in his work, and situates both in the larger imperial context. In addition to radically new interpretations of Gogol’s texts, Bojanowska offers a comprehensive analysis of his reception by contemporaries.
Brilliantly conceived and masterfully argued, Edyta Bojanowska fundamentally changes our understanding of this beloved author and his place in Russian literature.
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