Topics, Texts, Interpretations
Publication Year: 2012
Since his death in 1837, Alexander Pushkin—often called the “father of Russian literature”—has become a timeless embodiment of Russian national identity, adopted for diverse ideological purposes and reinvented anew as a cultural icon in each historical era (tsarist, Soviet, and post-Soviet). His elevation to mythic status, however, has led to the celebration of some of his writings and the shunning of others. Throughout the history of Pushkin studies, certain topics, texts, and interpretations have remained officially off-limits in Russia—taboos as prevalent in today’s Russia as ever before.
The essays in this bold and authoritative volume use new approaches, overlooked archival materials, and fresh interpretations to investigate aspects of Pushkin’s biography and artistic legacy that have previously been suppressed or neglected. Taken together, the contributors strive to create a more fully realized Pushkin and demonstrate how potent a challenge the unofficial, taboo, alternative Pushkin has proven to be across the centuries for the Russian literary and political establishments.
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Foreword: The Power of the Word and the Turn to Taboo
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In his chapter on The Captain’s Daughter (Kapitanskaia dochka) for this volume, David Bethea asks what is surely a central question about Pushkin’s handling of the forbidden: “Taboos by definition set boundaries; how does one experiment at those boundaries without becoming...
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This book is the end result of a genuinely collaborative effort, having been first conceptualized in the context of a three-day international conference that was held in January 2009 on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. Without the generous financial support of the...
Note on Transliteration and Translation
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The transliterations in this book follow both the Library of Congress system and conventions used in nonspecialist publications. A few first names have been anglicized (Aleksandr has become Alexander, Mariia is Maria, and the apostrophes have been omitted from names such as...
Introduction: Beyond Pushkin as Dogma
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Part 1: Taboos in Context
Pushkin the Titular Councilor
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In addition to being a great writer, Pushkin also was a man of a particular time and a member of a particular estate, namely, the service nobility. As such, he participated in the Russian service hierarchy; that is, he was in imperial service and had a rank. While to us Pushkin’s service may...
Why Pushkin Did Not Become a Decembrist
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The opinion of Decembrist and member of the United Slavs Ivan I. Gorbachevsky (1800–69) about Pushkin is perhaps the most scathing and tabooed contemporary appraisal of the personality of the poet in Pushkin studies. Contained in a letter from Gorbachevsky to another...
Lighting the Green Lamp: Unpublished and Unknown Poems
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Pushkin’s Petersburg period (1817–20) is one of the most problematic periods of his literary biography. The Soviet Pushkin industry and, before it, prerevolutionary progressive Pushkinists, were exceedingly anxious to paint this juncture in the national poet’s biography as its...
Pushkin and Metropolitan Philaret: Rethinking the Problem
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The topic of Pushkin’s relations with Metropolitan Philaret cannot in itself be considered taboo: during the last two decades in Russia (as well as beyond her borders) more publications have been dedicated to this subject than during the entire former history of Pushkin scholarship...
Part 2: Taboo Writings
If Only Pushkin Had Not WrittenThis Filth: The Shade of Barkov and Philological Cover-ups
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Mikhail Gasparov (1935–2005), a great scholar and a man of wit, noticed several times that the Russians’ preference for a particular work of Pushkin’s had always been of an ideological rather than a scholarly or purely aesthetic nature. “Twenty years ago we honored Pushkin for his...
Bawdy and Soul: Pushkin’s Poetics of Obscenity
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Despite the tomes and tomes of scholarship that have been penned about virtually every aspect of Pushkin’s writing, his poetics of the obscene remains an almost untouched and untouchable field of inquiry. True, some excellent studies can be listed that treat individual works by...
Resexing Literature: Tsar Nikita and His Forty Daughters
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Pushkin’s Tsar Nikita and His Forty Daughters (Tsar’ Nikita i sorok ego docherei) is one of the most striking examples of the poet’s “erotic poetry.”1 Although it was unprinted in his lifetime, references to it in Pushkin’s letters make clear his authorship.2 The poem relates the story...
The Poetics of Dry Transgression in Pushkin’s Necro-Erotic Verse
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Among Pushkin’s last love lyrics are two poems addressed to dead beloveds—“ Incantation” (“Zaklinanie” ) and “For the shores of your distant homeland” (“Dlia beregov otchizny dal’noi” ). Both poems imagine, indeed demand, an erotic reunion with the dead...
The Blasphemies of The Gabrieliad
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Pushkin’s The Gabrieliad (Gavriiliada ) violates taboos of a social, religious, and political kind, and these interrelated transgressions against the authorities of church and state made an ostensibly witty poem into a dangerous piece. The working definition of taboo that I...
Politics and Poetry: The “Anti-Polish” Poems and “I built myself a monument not made by human hands”
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Although surely The Shade of Barkov (Ten’ Barkova) takes the prize among poems that many readers wish Pushkin had not written, there are other works that tend to be passed over in silence rather than denied or placed under overt taboo. Pushkin’s so-called anti-Polish poems, “Before the...
Part 3: Taboo Readings
Taboo and the Family Romance in The Captain’s Daughter
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It is a relatively easy matter to identify places in Pushkin’s early works where taboos are being challenged and broken. After all, this is the adolescent who constantly got into hot water with his mates and the authorities at the lyceum for participating in pranks...
Through the Lens of Soviet Psychoanalysis and Utopian Dreams of the 1920s: Ivan Ermakov’s Readings of Pushkin’s Poetry
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"The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to the revival of several" "pproaches to literature that were previously treated as taboo subjects, ncluding psychoanalysis. One example is the legacy of Ivan Dmitrievich rmakov (1875–1942), a psychiatrist, artist, translator, and literary critic,"...
The Red Pushkin and the Writers’ Union in 1937: Prescription and Taboo
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Amid the ideological shifts of the early and mid-1930s, Pushkin went from being a landowning member of the oppressor class to a nearrevolutionary comrade-in-arms of the Decembrists, training his art against the throne. The public unveiling of this new, quasi-Soviet Pushkin...
Krzhizhanovsky’s Pushkin in the 1930s: The Cleopatra Myth from Femme Fatale to Roman Farce
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On 2 January 1936, as part of the upcoming Pushkin jubilee, the State Moscow Chamber Theater commissioned a stage adaptation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (Evgenii Onegin) from one of its longtime lecturers in the Experimental Acting Studio, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky...
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Further Reading, Back Cover
Page Count: 472
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Wisconsin Center for Pushkin Studies
Series Editor Byline: David M. Bethea and Alexander Dolinin, General Editors