Chekhov for the 21st Century
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: Slavica Publishers
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Note on the Text
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One hundred fifty years after his birth, Anton Chekhov’s influence continues to expand around the world, reaching readers and audiences he could not have anticipated during his lifetime. Chekhov’s fans know no limits of age or nationality. His audience includes, at one extreme, a group of New York public elementary-‐‑school students who performed his play Uncle Vanya in its...
Part I: Space
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The Spaces Between the Places: Chekhov’s “Without a Title” and the Art of Being (Out) There
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In Chekhov’s only story set in the fifth century, the principal venue is a holy monastery, a stronghold of chastity, obedience, and self-‐‑abnegation under the leadership of a charismatic father superior, whose mere word is the monks’ command.1 Offsetting this bastion of piety in Chekhov’s untitled story is a nameless city that offers up the most impressive array of sensual pleasures...
Chekhov’s The Duel, or How to Colonize Responsibly
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In 1890, Anton Chekhov undertook an arduous and risky journey to the is-‐‑ land of Sakhalin, the site of a notorious prison camp, in the farthest eastern reaches of the Russian Empire north of Japan. Many accounts of Chekhov’s motives for the journey stress his interest in the workings of a prison system.1 Yet one key factor has slipped out of view. When explaining his decision to...
Circuses and Cemeteries: Chekhovian Topoi
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The setting of the second act of The Cherry Orchard is an abandoned cemetery. It is here that the professional circus performer Sharlotta delivers her confessional monologue, a monologue that no one takes seriously. Her eccentric clothing, clownish attributes—which include a rifle and a cucumber—and her...
Part II: Time
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Being as Event, or the Drama of Dasein: Chekhov’s The Three Sisters
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In his prose and drama, Chekhov treated philosophy and philosophizing with distinct irony. Chekhov’s wry attitude toward philosophy does not mean, however, that as an artist he placed himself entirely outside of the philosophical concerns of his time. Rather the opposite was true. Lev Shestov, one of the first readers of Chekhov who sensed the novelty of Chekhov’s philosophical...
Classical Ideas of Fate in Chekhov’s Dramaturgy
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The concept of fate plays a very particular role in the philosophical content of Chekhov’s plays.1 In the texts themselves it is mentioned infrequently. In Uncle Vanya, for example, Sonya says: “We shall bear patiently the trials fate has in store for us” (Plays 167).2 In the first act of The Three Sisters, Vershinin says: “Yes, we’ll be forgotten. Such is our fate, and we can’t do anything...
The Death of the Hero in Chekhov’s World
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In the world of a fictional text, as opposed to the real world, the mortality of the hero is not a given. The genres of epic and fairy tale often feature immortal heroes (or heroes who are only temporarily mortal); characters in adventure and detective genres are invincible and eternally young. At the same time, the hero’s mortal demise is a cherished device, the culmination of works...
Nabokov’s Debt to Chekhov’s Art of Memory
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In Strong Opinions, Nabokov (referring en passant to Tolstoy’s genius) stated apropos of Chekhov: “I do love Chekhov dearly. I fail, however, to rationalize my feeling for him: I can easily do so in regard to the greater artist, Tolstoy; […] yet it is his works which I would take on a trip to another planet.”1 Not...
Part III: Person
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Of Interpretation and Stolen Kisses: From Poetics to Metapoetics in Chekhov’s “The Kiss”
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Many of Chekhov’s works not only manifest, but actually portray aspects of the creation and reception of literature (and other art forms). A tendency to-‐‑ ward self-‐‑reflexivity was evident in Chekhov’s very first publications, as is apparent in the title of his second work, “What Is Most Often Encountered in...
Reading Chekhov Through Meyerhold’s Eyes
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What should students of literature make of the books a performing artist reads and the roles he plays? How should one account for the intricate relationship between a character in a novel or play and the real person, the subject matter of one’s research? The famous actor and director Vsevolod Meyerhold (1874–1940) presents an interesting case study. One could argue that the...
The Marriage of Figaro, the Marriage of Lopakhin: The Hero's Revolt
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Already some of the first viewers of The Cherry Orchard observed that the main action, or inaction, of Chekhov’s play—the vacantly discussed, looming, imminent sale of the estate—resonates in the similarly developed theme of Lopakhin’s marriage.1 Ermolai Lopakhin tries to convince his former masters...
Cultural Kenosis in Chekhov’s “The Wife”
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Chekhov is known for asking uncomfortable questions that have no tidy answers. His short story “The Wife” (“Zhena,” 1892) asks one such question, namely: what is the real meaning of philanthropy, and what do people really seek when they give to others? In order to answer this question, I will contrast...
Part IV: Word
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“Put Yourself in the Place of a Corncrake”: Chekhov’s Poetics of Reconciliation
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On 6 March 1888 Chekhov sent a letter from Moscow to Alexei Pleshcheev in Petersburg. Though not nearly as famous as Chekhov’s “credo” formulated the same year in a letter to the same correspondent (“My holy of holies is the human body, health, intelligence, talent, inspiration, love, and the most absolute freedom imaginable, freedom from violence and lies, no matter what...
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The Psychology of Chekhov’s Creative Method and Generative Poetics
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Scholars endeavoring to reconstruct Chekhov’s creative process inevitably en-‐‑ counter a number of serious difficulties. The writer kept practically no diaries, and after completing a work he would destroy both his preliminary notes and his drafts. Moreover, only with the greatest reluctance would Chekhov address...
Chekhov’s Style in Light of General Systems Thinking: The Steppe as a Positional Masterpiece
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Chekhov’s mind was truly analytical. When he discussed questions related to scientific thinking with his colleagues and friends, he was ahead of his time. Talking about Chekhov and Nabokov, Jerome H. Katsell emphasizes their “deep attachment to biological science and its methodologies, including close...
Part V: Transpositions
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The Cherry Orchard in the Twenty-First Century: New Adaptations and Versions
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In his survey of “The Cherry Orchard in English,” published eighty years after the play’s first performance, Andrew Durkin writes that “there have been more than a dozen translations” of the play into English.1 The astonishing number of new English translations and versions of the play since the publication...
Three Sisters as a Case Study for “Making Foreign Theater or Making Theater Foreign”
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When a play is transferred from one culture to another, general questions arise with respect to the translation processes at work. In staging Three Sisters, for example, is the agenda to present a classic from Russian culture? Or to find ways of making Russian culture accessible by blending it with a new...
Gained in Translation: Chekhov’s “Lady”
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A common view of translation considers its greatest challenge to be lexical: the task of finding equivalent target-‐‑level vocabulary for the words in the original text. In his famous article “On Linguistic Aspects of Translation,” Roman Jakobson argues that this lexical approach is appropriate for translating....
Uncle Vanya: Life in Time (Reception and Interpretation)
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The issue of the “beautiful man,” quite relevant for those who want to construct a future society, was undoubtedly a concern for Chekhov’s heroes. The setting of all his works was contemporary, and thus his characters “lived” during the 1880s and 1890s, when the ideals of the 1860s had been exhausted....
Chekhov in the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute
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The Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute, the Ohio State University Libraries’ special collection for the performing arts located at the Thompson Library, holds collections which are wide-‐‑ranging in scope and serves as an archive for performers, playwrights, choreographers, designers, and production organizations and advances the study and inspiration of the...
“A Cigar in the Fresh Air”: Chekhov’s Yasha Lives!
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Readers of Anton Chekhov’s plays and stories generally close their books or leave the theater without a clear sense of what the author wants them to think or how the author intends for them to act. Vladimir Kataev has written that Chekhov is an epistemological rather than an ontological artist.1 This may be part of the problem....
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It arrived in Iowa by mail on a gloomy afternoon in February 2006, a small, lumpy package from the celebrated New York writer Phillip Lopate. I tore through the bubble wrap. It was The Tape, a single word—”Vanya”— inscribed upon its label. I was in my office with a myriad mundane mid-semester tasks that demanded my flagging attention. I was busy, distracted,...
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Publication Year: 2012