Justin Weir develops a persuasive analysis of the complex relationship between authorial self-reflection and literary tradition in three of the most famous Russian novels of the first half of the twentieth century: Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, and Nabokov's The Gift. With Weir's innovative interpretation, and its compelling historical, cultural, and theoretical insights, The Author as Hero offers a new view of an important moment in the evolution of Russian literature.
By Authors Possessed examines the development of the demonic in key Russian novels from the last two centuries. Defining the demonic novel as one that takes as its theme an evil presence incarnated in the protagonists and attributed to the Judeo-Christian Devil, Adam Weiner investigates the way the content of such a book can compromise the moral integrity of its narration and its sense of authorship.
Weiner contends that the theme of demonism increasingly infects the narrative point of view from Gogol's Dead Souls to Dostoevsky's The Devils and Bely's Petersburg, until Nabokov exorcised the demonic novel through his fiction and his criticism. Starting from the premise that artistic creation has always been enshrouded in a haze of moral dilemma and religious doubt, Weiner's study of the demonic novel is an attempt to illuminate the potential ethical perils and aesthetic gains of great art.
Co-authored by Russian, Ukrainian, and American critics, Dialogues/Dialogi is the first fully collaborative and comparative study of American and (ex)Soviet women writers. Truly a dialogue, the book juxtaposes fiction by American and Soviet women from the 1960s to the present to reveal their similarities and differences and to show how questions of gender, race, and ethnicity are enacted in the societies and psyches each text represents. Begun in the early days of glasnost and completed in 1992, the book conveys the spirit and excitement of an unprecedented critical conversation conducted during a time of historic transformation. Dialogues/Dialogi pairs stories by Tillie Olsen, Toni Cade Bambara, Jayne Anne Phillips, and Leslie Marmon Silko (reprinted here in full) with Russian stories by I. Grekova, Liudmila Petrushevskaya, Elena Makarova, and Anna Nerkagi, many of them appearing here for the first time in English. Exquisite in their stylistic and thematic variety, suggestive of the range of women's experience and fiction in both countries, each story is the subject of paired interpretive essays by an American and an (ex)Soviet critic from among the book's authors. A colloquy of diverse voices speaking together in multiple, mutually illuminating exchanges, Dialogues/Dialogi testifies to the possibility of evolving relationships among women across borders once considered impassable.
Dostoevsky and Romantic Realism is Donald Fanger's groundbreaking study of the art of Dostoevsky and the literary and historical context in which it was created. Through detailed analyses of the work of Balzac, Dickens, and Gogol, Fanger identifies romantic realism, the transformative fusion of two generic categories, as a powerful imaginary response to the great modern city. This fusion reaches its aesthetic and metaphysical climax in Dostoevsky, whose vision culminating in Crime and Punishment is seen by Fanger as the final synthesis of romantic realism.
The Imperative of Reliability examines the development of nineteenth-century Russian prose and the remarkably swift emergence of the Russian novel. Victoria Somoff identifies an unprecedented situation in the production and perception of the utterance that came to define nascent novelistic fictionality both in European and Russian prose, where the utterance itself—whether an oral story or a “found” manuscript—became the object of representation within the compositional format of the frame narrative. This circumstance generated a narrative perspective from which both the events and their representation appeared as concomitant in time and space: the events did not precede their narration but rather occurred and developed along with and within the narration itself. Somoff establishes this story-discourse convergence as a major factor in enabling the transition from shorter forms of Russian prose to the full-fledged realist novel.
This new edition of In Stalin’s Time, which brings back into print Vera Dunham’s 1976 landmark study of popular fiction in the Soviet Union during the Stalin regime, is updated to include new material by the author and a new introduction by Richard Sheldon. Dunham describes how the middle-brow or postwar establishmentarian literature of the Stalinist period was a product of a “Big Deal” intended to propagate values and establish an alliance between the regime and the middle class. Both descriptive and analytical, Dunham’s complex picture of “high totalitarianism” not only reveals insights into the details of Soviet life but illuminates important theoretical questions about the role of literature in the political structure of Soviet society.
In the eighteenth century, when the picaresque had been eclipsed by neoclassical and preromantic models in much of Europe, it flourished anew in Russia. Marcia A. Morris's book, a study of this flowering and the antecedents of the picaresque in the seventeenth-century, offers new insight into both the genre and its broad appeal for Russian readers. Morris situates the earlier tales of roguery in the tumultuous social milieu of the waning medieval period and shows how these texts mirror many of the manifestations of subversive behavior in the larger culture. She also shows how eighteenth-century "Europeanized" men of letters, who publicly scorned this earlier literature, actually adapted its popular patterns in their own Western-inspired works. Her book provides fresh readings of several well-known texts and resurrects forgotten eighteenth-century picaresques, revealing their fusion of Western and indigenous aesthetics and their broader cultural underpinnings.
In Men without Women Eliot Borenstein examines the literature of the early Soviet period to shed new light on the iconic Russian concept of comradeship. By analyzing a variety of Russian writers who span the ideological spectrum, Borenstein provides an illuminating reading of the construction of masculinity in Soviet culture. In each example he identifies the replacement of blood ties with ideology and the creation of a social order in which the family has been supplanted by the collective. In such works as Red Cavalry by Isaac Babel, Envy by Yuri Olesha, and Chevengur by Andrei Platonov women are either absent or transformed into bodiless abstractions. Their absence, claims Borenstein, reflects the masculine values that are hallmarks of the post-revolutionary era: production rather than reproduction, participation in history rather than domestic ahistoricity, heavy industry, construction, and struggle. He identifies in this literature groups of “men without women” replacing the family, even while the metaphor of family is used as an organizing feature of their recurring revolutionary missions. With the passage of time, these characters’ relationships—just as those in the Soviet culture of the time—begin to resemble the family structure that was originally rejected and destroyed, with one important exception: the new “families” had no place for women. According to Borenstein, this masculinist myth found its most congenial audience during the early period of communism, but its hostility to women and family ties could not survive into the Stalinist era when women, home, and family were no longer seen as antithetical to socialism. Drawing on the theory and writings of Levi-Strauss, Girard, Sedgwick, and others, Men Without Women will be of interest to students and scholars of Slavic literature and history as well as specialists in literary theory and gender studies.
A Plot of Her Own presents compelling new readings of major texts in the Russian literary canon, all of which are readily available in translation. The female protagonists in the works examined are inextricably linked with the fundamental issues raised by the novels they inform; the interpretations offered strive not to be reductive or doctrinaire, not to be imposed from the outside but to arise from the texts themselves and the historical circumstances in which they were written. Authors discussed include Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Bulgakov, and the novels considered range from Fathers and Children to Zamyatin's anti-Utopian We. Throughout, the contributors new visions expand our understanding of the words and reveal new significance in them.
Balanced precariously between fact and fiction, the historical novel is often viewed with suspicion. Some have attacked it as a mongrel form, a “bastard son” born of “history’s flagrant adultery with imagination.” Yet it includes some of the most celebrated achievements of Russian literature, with Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy, and scores of other writers contributing to this tradition.
Dan Ungurianu’s Plotting History traces the development of the Russian historical novel from its inception in the romantic era to the emergence of Modernism on the eve of the Revolution. Organized historically and thematically, the study is focused on the cultural paradigms that shaped the evolution of the genre and are reflected in masterpieces such as The Captain’s Daughter and War and Peace. Ungurianu examines the variety of approaches by which Russian writers combined fact with fiction and explores the range of subjects that inspired the Russian historical imagination.
Outstanding Academic Title, Choice Magazine
“Ungurianu has produced a most valuable work for literary scholars.”—Andrew M. Drozd, Slavic and East European Journal
“[Ungurianu’s] overwhelming knowledge, impeccable documentation, erudite notes, and valuable addenda make for a treasure house of information and keen analysis. . . . Essential.”—Choice
Russian Grotesque Realism: The Great Reforms and the Gentry Decline offers a comprehensive reevaluation of the Russian realist novel and proposes that a composite style, “grotesque realism,” developed in response to social upheaval during the post-Reform era. In this compelling new study, Ani Kokobobo argues that if the realism of pre-Reform Russia could not depict socioeconomic change directly, the grotesque provided an indirect means for Russian writers to capture the instability of the times and the decline of the gentry. While realism historically represented the psychological depth of characters, the grotesque focused more on the body, materialism, and categorical confusions in order to depict characters whose humanity had eroded.
With original readings of some of Russian realism’s greatest novels, Anna Karenina, Demons, and Brothers Karamazov, as well as lesser known novels like The Family Golovlev, The Precipice, Resurrection, and Cathedral Folk, Russian Grotesque Realism traces the transformation of gentry representation from spiritual strivers and thinkers to more materialist beings. By the end of the nineteenth century, the gentry, originally seen as society’s preservers, were represented as grotesque, reflecting a broader societal breakdown that would eventually precipitate the end of the novel genre itself.
Anna A. Berman’s book brings to light the significance of sibling relationships in the writings of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Relationships in their works have typically been studied through the lens of erotic love in the former, and intergenerational conflict in the latter.
In close readings of their major novels, Berman shows how both writers portray sibling relationships as a stabilizing force that counters the unpredictable, often destructive elements of romantic entanglements and the hierarchical structure of generations. Power and interconnectedness are cast in a new light. Berman persuasively argues that both authors gradually come to consider siblinghood a model of all human relations, discerning a career arc in each that moves from the dynamics within families to a much broader vision of universal brotherhood.
In Turned Inside Out: Reading the Russian Novel in Prison, Steven Shankman reflects on his remarkable experience teaching texts by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vasily Grossman, and Emmanuel Levinas in prison to a mix of university students and inmates. These persecuted writers—Shankman argues that Dostoevsky’s and Levinas’s experiences of incarceration were formative—describe ethical obligation as an experience of being turned inside out by the face-to-face encounter. Shankman relates this experience of being turned inside out to the very significance of the word “God,” to Dostoevsky’s tormented struggles with religious faith, to Vasily Grossman’s understanding of his Jewishness in his great novel Life and Fate, and to the interpersonal encounters the author has witnessed reading these texts with his students in the prison environment.
Turned Inside Out will appeal to readers with interests in the classic novels of Russian literature, in prisons and pedagogy, or in Levinas and phenomenology. At a time when the humanities are struggling to justify the centrality of their mission in today’s colleges and universities, Steven Shankman by example makes an undeniably powerful case for the transformative power of reading great texts.
The Twelve Chairs: A Novel
Ilya Ilf Northwestern University Press, 2011 Library of Congress PG3476.I44D913 2011 | Dewey Decimal 891.7342
Winner, 2012 Northern California Book Award for Fiction in Translation
More faithful to the original text and its deeply resonant humor, this new translation of The TwelveChairs brings Ilf and Petrov’s Russian classic fully to life. The novel’s iconic hero, Ostap Bender, an unemployed con artist living by his wits, joins forces with Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov, a former nobleman who has returned to his hometown to look for a cache of missing jewels hidden in chairs that have been appropriated by the Soviet authorities. The search for the chairs takes them from the provinces of Moscow to the wilds of the Transcaucasus mountains. On their quest they encounter a variety of characters, from opportunistic Soviet bureaucrats to aging survivors of the old propertied classes, each one more selfish, venal, and bungling than the last. A brilliant satire of the early years of the Soviet Union, as well as the inspiration for a Mel Brooks film, The Twelve Chairs retains its universal appeal.
2016 AATSEEL Prize for Best Book in Literary/Cultural Studies
Vasilii Aksenov, Andrei Bitov, and Venedikt Erofeev were among the most acclaimed authors of samizdat, the literature that was self-published in the former Soviet Union in order to evade censorship and prosecution. In Uncensored, Ann Komaromi uses their work to argue for a far more sophisticated understanding of the phenomenon of samizdat, showing how the material circumstances of its creation and dissemination exercised a profound influence on the very idea of dissidence, reconfiguring the relationship between author and reader.
Using archival research to fully illustrate samizdat’s social and historical context, Komaromi arrives at a more nuanced theoretical position that breaks down the opposition between the autonomous work of art and direct political engagement. The similarities between samizdat and digital culture have particular relevance for contemporary discourses of dissident subjectivity.
In The Woman in the Window: Commerce, Consensual Fantasy, and the Quest for Masculine Virtue in the Russian Novel, Russell Scott Valentino offers pioneering new insights into the historical construction of virtue and its relation to the rapidly shifting economic context in modern Russia. This study illustrates how the traditional virtue ethic, grounded in property-based conceptions of masculine heroism, was eventually displaced by a new commercial ethic that rested upon consensual fantasy. The new economic world destabilized traditional Russian notions of virtue and posed a central question that Russian authors have struggled to answer since the early nineteenth century: How could a self-interested commercial man be incorporated into the Russian context as a socially valuable masculine character?
With chapters on Gogol, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky as well as Pasternak and Nabokov, The Woman in the Window argues that Russian authors worked through this question via their depictions of “mixed-up men.” Such characters, according to Valentino, reveal that in a world where social reality and personal identity depend on consensual fantasies, the old masculine figure loses its grounding and can easily drift away. Valentino charts a range of masculine character types thrown off stride by the new commercially inflected world: those who embrace blind confidence, those who are split with doubt or guilt, and those who look for an ideal of steadfastness and purity to keep afloat—a woman in a window.
Winner, 2014 AWSS Best Book in Slavic/East European/Eurasian Women's Studies
In Russian culture, the archetypal mother is noble and self-sacrificing. In Women with a Thirst for Destruction, however, Jenny Kaminer shows how this image is destabilized during periods of dramatic rupture in Russian society, examining in detail the aftermath of three key moments in the country’s history: the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the fall of the Communist regime in 1991. She explores works both familiar and relatively unexamined: Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin’s The Golovlev Family, Fyodor Gladkov’s Cement, and Liudmila Petrushevskaia’s The Time: Night, as well as a late Soviet film (Vyacheslav Krishtofovich’s Adam’s Rib, 1990) and media coverage of the Chechen conflict. Kaminer’s book speaks broadly to the mutability of seemingly established cultural norms in the face of political and social upheaval.