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Between Two Fires
Gypsy Performance and Romani Memory from Pushkin to Post-Socialism
Alaina Lemon
Duke University Press, 2000
Since tsarist times, Roma in Russia have been portrayed as both rebellious outlaws and free-spirited songbirds—in each case, as if isolated from society. In Soviet times, Russians continued to harbor these two, only seemingly opposed, views of “Gypsies,” exalting their songs on stage but scorning them on the streets as liars and cheats. Alaina Lemon’s Between Two Fires examines how Roma themselves have negotiated these dual images in everyday interactions and in stage performances.
Lemon’s ethnographic study is based on extensive fieldwork in 1990s Russia and focuses on Moscow Romani Theater actors as well as Romani traders and metalworkers. Drawing from interviews with Roma and Russians, observations of performances, and conversations, as well as archives, literary texts, and media, Lemon analyzes the role of theatricality and theatrical tropes in Romani life and the everyday linguistics of social relations and of memory. Historically, the way Romani stage performance has been culturally framed and positioned in Russia has served to typecast Gypsies as “natural” performers, she explains. Thus, while theatrical and musical performance may at times empower Roma, more often it has reinforced and rationalized racial and social stereotypes, excluding them from many Soviet and Russian economic and political arenas. Performance, therefore, defines what it means to be Romani in Russia differently than it does elsewhere, Lemon shows. Considering formal details of language as well as broader cultural and social structures, she also discusses how racial categories relate to post-Soviet economic changes, how gender categories and Euro-Soviet notions of civility are connected, and how ontological distinctions between “stage art” and “real life” contribute to the making of social types. This complex study thus serves as a corrective to romantic views of Roma as detached from political forces.

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Challenging the Bard
Dostoevsky and Pushkin, a Study of Literary Relationship
Gary Rosenshield
University of Wisconsin Press, 2013
When geniuses meet, something extraordinary happens, like lightning produced from colliding clouds, observed Russian poet Alexander Blok. There is perhaps no literary collision more fascinating and deserving of study than the relationship between Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837), Russia's greatest poet, and Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–81), its greatest prose writer. In the twentieth century, Pushkin, "Russia's Shakespeare," became enormously influential, his literary successors universally acknowledging and venerating his achievements. In the nineteenth century, however, it was Dostoevsky more than any other Russian writer who wrestled with Pushkin's legacy as cultural icon and writer. Though he idolized Pushkin in his later years, the younger Dostoevsky exhibited a much more contentious relationship with his eminent precursor.
            In Challenging the Bard, Gary Rosenshield engages with the critical histories of these two literary titans, illuminating how Dostoevsky reacted to, challenged, adapted, and ultimately transformed the work of his predecessor Pushkin. Focusing primarily on Dostoevsky's works through 1866—including Poor Folk, The Double, Mr. Prokharchin, The Gambler, and Crime and Punishment—Rosenshield observes that the younger writer's way to literary greatness was not around Pushkin, but through him. By examining each literary figure in terms of the other, Rosenshield demonstrates how Dostoevsky both deviates from and honors the work of Pushkin. At its core, Challenging the Bard offers a unique perspective on the poetry of the master, Pushkin, the prose of his successor, Dostoevsky, and the nature of literary influence.

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The Familiar Letter as a Literary Genre in the Age of Pushkin
William Mills Todd III
Northwestern University Press, 1999
In the field of Russian literary studies, there is surprisingly little discussion of independent genres and their effect on the creativity of an era. This important text on the quasi-public "friendly letter" of nineteenth-century Russia addresses this deficiency, examining the tradition of familiar letter writing that developed in the early 1800s among literary circles that included such luminaries as Pushkin, Karamzin, and Turgenev, and arguing that these letters constitute a distinct literary genre.

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Fiction and Society in the Age of Pushkin
Ideology, Institutions, and Narrative
William Mills Todd III
Harvard University Press, 1986

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.


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From Pushkin to Tolstoy
An Advanced Russian Reader
Konstantin Reichardt
University of Minnesota Press, 1944
From Pushkin to Tolstoy was first published in 1944. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.These selections, showing a wide variety of style, will acquaint advanced students of the Russian language with characteristics of the language used by some of the leading representatives of nineteenth-century Russian literature. All of these selections are either complete or can be understood or identified easily. Because the editor believes the student of Russian should try to become accustomed to the Russian accentuation and the use of larger dictionaries, word accents and a special glossary have not been given.

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Greetings, Pushkin!
Stalinist Cultural Politics and the Russian National Bard
Jonathan Brooks Platt
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016
In 1937, the Soviet Union mounted a national celebration commemorating the centenary of poet Alexander Pushkin’s death. Though already a beloved national literary figure, the scale and feverish pitch of the Pushkin festival was unprecedented. Greetings, Pushkin! presents the first in-depth study of this historic event and follows its manifestations in art, literature, popular culture, education, and politics, while also examining its philosophical underpinnings.
            Jonathan Brooks Platt looks deeply into the motivations behind the Soviet glorification of a long-dead poet—seemingly at odds with the October Revolution’s radical break with the past. He views the Pushkin celebration as a conjunction of two opposing approaches to time and modernity: monumentalism, which points to specific moments and individuals as the origin point for cultural narratives, and eschatology, which glorifies ruptures in the chain of art or thought and the destruction of canons.
            In the midst of the Great Purge, the Pushkin jubilee was a critical element in the drive toward a nationalist discourse that attempted to unify and subsume the disparate elements of the Soviet Union, supporting the move to “socialism in one country.”

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Jakobsonian Poetics and Slavic Narrative
From Pushkin to Solzhenitsyn
Krystyna Pomorska
Duke University Press, 1992
Krystyna Pomorska (1928–1986), a noted specialist of Slavic literature and literary theory, is best known for her pioneering work in applying Roman Jakobson's theories of poetics to prose narratives. This collection draws together and makes accessible her writings over two decades (among them articles appearing in English for the first time), and treats a wide range of Slavic literary works, including Pushkin, Tolstoy, Pasternak, Chekov, and Solzhenitsyn, as well as examples from Polish and Ukrainian literature and folklore.
Forming an intellectual and methodological whole, these essays reveal Pomorska's commitment to the principles of Jakobsonian poetics, her consistent application of these basic theoretical concepts to the analysis of literary works, and her interest in the foundations and history of literary criticism. Pomorska explores problems in both poetics (of prose as well as poetry) and literary theory, especially the relationship between biography and myth.
In Krystyna Pomorska, structuralism found a most able practitioner, and Jakobson's oeuvre an authoritative exponent and interpreter. Her volume, a guidebook to a major strain in modern criticism, will be of great interest to a broad audience of literary theorists and students of Slavic literatures and literature in general.

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The Russian Tradition from Pushkin to Chekhov
Michael C. Finke
Duke University Press, 1995
Readers have been schooled to see nineteenth-century Russian literature as the summit of social and psychological realism. But in the work of writers from Pushkin to Chekhov, Michael C. Finke discloses a pervasive self-referentiality, a running commentary on the literary conventions these texts seem so wholly to embody. Metapoesis examines how—and more importantly, why—a series of major Russian authors spanning the nineteenth century inscribed commentary on their own poetics into their works of drama, narrative poetry, and fiction. As he explores the process of metapoesis in these works, Finke reveals its communicative function in its time and its interpretive value in our own.
Jakobsonian poetics provides the framework for this approach, though Finke also draws freely upon a number of contemporary literary theorists. After elucidating the meaning of metapoesis in works by Pushkin, Gogol, and Chernyshevsky, he reveals its covert functioning in such masterpieces of realism as Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and Chekhov’s "The Steppe." The result is a new interpretation and deeper understanding of these particular works, which in turn reorient our understanding of linguistic and literary "codes" and of the Russian literary tradition itself.
Of special interest to scholars of Russian literature, Metapoesis will also appeal to a broad range of readers and students of comparative literature, literary theory, and poetics.

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Pushkin and the Genres of Madness
The Masterpieces of 1833
Gary Rosenshield
University of Wisconsin Press, 2003

    In 1833 Alexander Pushkin began to explore the topic of madness, a subject little explored in Russian literature before his time. The works he produced on the theme are three of his greatest masterpieces: the prose novella The Queen of Spades, the narrative poem The Bronze Horseman, and the lyric "God Grant That I Not Lose My Mind." Gary Rosenshield presents a new interpretation of Pushkin’s genius through an examination of his various representations of madness.
    Pushkin brilliantly explored both the destructive and creative sides of madness, a strange fusion of violence and insight. In this study, Rosenshield illustrates the surprising valorization of madness in The Queen of Spades and "God Grant That I Not Lose My Mind" and analyzes The Bronze Horseman’s confrontation with the legacy of Peter the Great, a cornerstone figure of Russian history. Drawing on themes of madness in western literature, Rosenshield situates Pushkin in a greater framework with such luminaries as Shakespeare, Sophocles, Cervantes, and Dostoevsky providing an insightful and absorbing study of Russia’s greatest writer.


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Pushkin on Literature
Tatiana Wolff
Northwestern University Press, 1998
Pushkin on Literature approaches Pushkin's literary accomplishment from a unique perspective: it focuses on Pushkin the critic, and on his passionate enthusiasm, volatile judgments, joy, frustration, and fascination with the literary world that surrounded him. This is the only English-language edition of the complete set of Pushkin's critical writing, both on his own work and on the wide range of European literature--Byron, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Milton--which he read and studied, and which so profoundly influenced his own writing.

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Pushkin, the Decembrists, and Civic Sentimentalism
Emily Wang
University of Wisconsin Press, 2023
In December 1825, a group of liberal aristocrats, officers, and intelligentsia mounted a coup against the tsarist government of Russia. Inspired partially by the democratic revolutions in the United States and France, the Decembrist movement was unsuccessful; however, it led Russia’s civil society to new avenues of aspiration and had a lasting impact on Russian culture and politics. Many writers and thinkers belonged to the conspiracy while others, including the poet Alexander Pushkin, were loosely or ambiguously affiliated. While the Decembrist movement and Pushkin’s involvement has been well covered by historians, Emily Wang takes a novel approach, examining the emotional and literary motivations behind the movement and the dramatic, failed coup. 

Through careful readings of the literature of Pushkin and others active in the northern branch of the Decembrist movement, such as Kondraty Ryleev, Wilhelm Küchelbecker, and Fyodor Glinka, Wang traces the development of “emotional communities” among the members and adjacent writers. This book illuminates what Wang terms “civic sentimentalism”: the belief that cultivating noble sentiments on an individual level was the key to liberal progress for Russian society, a core part of Decembrist ideology that constituted a key difference from their thought and Pushkin’s. The emotional program for Decembrist community members was, in other ways, a civic program for Russia as a whole, one that they strove to enact by any means necessary. 

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Russian Dramatic Theory from Pushkin to the Symbolists
An Anthology
Translated and edited by Laurence P. Senelick
University of Texas Press, 1981

Although younger than most European theatrical traditions, the Russian professional theater has generated an exciting body of criticism and theory which until recently has remained unknown or nearly inaccessible in the West. This anthology presents a selection of important Russian writing on the aesthetics of drama and the theater from 1828 to 1914.

The focus of these essays, most published here for the first time in English, is on the so-called Crisis in the Theater of 1904 to 1914, a lively debate between the symbolists and the naturalists that evoked brilliant polemic writing from Meyerhold, Bely, Bryusov, and others. Along with Chekhov's amusing critique of Sarah Bernhardt ("monstrously facile!") and Ivanov's abstruse analysis of the essence of tragedy, the essays form a running commentary on the development of the Russian theater: Pushkin on his predecessors, Gogol on his own work, Belinsky on Gogol, Sleptsov on Ostrovsky and Leskov, Bely on Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard ("enervated people, trying to forget the terror of life"), the symbolists on one another.

Each selection is printed in its entirety, with extensive notes, and a lengthy introduction places all the pieces within their historical and cultural contexts to comprise a brief history of Russian dramatic theory before the revolution. This volume is essential reading for all who wish to extend their knowledge of the Russian contribution to theatrical history, theory, and criticism.


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Tragic Encounters
Pushkin and European Romanticism
Maksim Hanukai
University of Wisconsin Press, 2023
Literary scholars largely agree that the Romantic period altered the definition of tragedy, but they have confined their analyses to Western European authors. Maksim Hanukai introduces a new, illuminating figure to this narrative, arguing that Russia’s national poet, Alexander Pushkin, can be understood as a tragic Romantic poet, although in a different mold than his Western counterparts. 

Many of Pushkin’s works move seamlessly between the closed world of traditional tragedy and the open world of Romantic tragic drama, and yet they follow neither the cathartic program prescribed by Aristotle nor the redemptive mythologies of the Romantics. Instead, the idiosyncratic and artistically mercurial Pushkin seized upon the newly unstable tragic mode to develop multiple, overlapping tragic visions. Providing new, innovative readings of such masterpieces as The Gypsies, Boris Godunov, The Little Tragedies, and The Bronze Horseman, Hanukai sheds light on an unexplored aspect of Pushkin’s work, while also challenging reigning theories about the fate of tragedy in the Romantic period.

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The Unlikely Futurist
Pushkin and the Invention of Originality in Russian Modernism
James Rann
University of Wisconsin Press, 2020
In the early twentieth century, a group of writers banded together in Moscow to create purely original modes of expression. These avant-garde artists, known as the Futurists, distinguished themselves by mastering the art of the scandal and making shocking denunciations of beloved icons. With publications such as "A Slap in the Face of Public Taste," they suggested that Aleksandr Pushkin, the founder of Russian literature, be tossed off the side of their "steamship of modernity."
Through systematic and detailed readings of Futurist texts, James Rann offers the first book-length study of the tensions between the outspoken literary group and the great national poet. He observes how those in the movement engaged with and invented a new Pushkin, who by turns became a founding father to rebel against, a source of inspiration to draw from, a prophet foreseeing the future, and a monument to revive.
Rann's analysis contributes to the understanding of both the Futurists and Pushkin's complex legacy. The Unlikely Futurist will appeal broadly to scholars of Slavic studies, especially those interested in literature and modernism.

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Writing as Exorcism
The Personal Codes of Pushkin, Lermontov, and Gogol
Ilya Kutik
Northwestern University Press, 2005
"Sometimes it takes a poet to read a poet. In this inspired, idiosyncratic study, Ilya Kutik offers exemplary interpretations of three Russian writers, of the lessons of fatalism, and of the complexities of reading." —from the Introduction

A remarkable literary performance in its own right, this interpretive essay brings a highly original poetic sensibility to bear on the lives and works of three major Russian writers. It is Ilya Kutik's contention that many writers are tormented by secret fears and desires that only writing—in particular, the use of certain words and images—can exorcise. Making this biographical approach peculiarly his own—and susceptible to the nuances of comedy, tragedy, and critical equanimity—Kutik reads works of Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, and Nikolai Gogol, three Russian writers who were demonstrably subject to the whims, superstitions, and talismans that Kutik identifies. Exposing the conjunction of literary effort and private act in writings such as "The Queen of Spades," Dead Souls, and A Hero of Our Time, Kutik's work gives us a new way of understanding these masterpieces of Russian literature and their authors, and a new way of reading the mysteries of life and literature as mutually enriching.

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