Northwestern University Press

Studies in Russian Literature and Theory

Gary Saul Morson

Published by: Northwestern University Press

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Studies in Russian Literature and Theory

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Aesthetics of Alienation

Reassessment of Early Soviet Cultural Theories

Evgeny Dobrenko

This provocative work takes issue with the idea that Socialist Realism was mainly the creation of party leaders and was imposed from above on the literati who lived and worked under the Soviet regime. Evgeny Dobrenko, a leading expert on Soviet literature, argues instead and offers persuasive evidence that the aesthetic theories underpinning Socialist Realism arose among the writers themselves, born of their proponents' desire for power in the realm of literary policymaking. Accordingly, Dobrenko closely considers the evolution of these theories, deciphering the power relations and social conditions that helped to shape them.

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The Author as Hero

Self and Tradition in Bulgakov, Pasternak, and Nabokov

Justin Weir

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.

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Becoming Mikhail Lermontov

The Ironies of Romantic Individualism in Nicholas I's Russia

David Powelstock

Mikhail Lermontov (1814 1841) is one of Russia's most prominent poets and one of its most puzzling. In this radically new interpretation, David Powelstock reveals how the seeming contradictions in Lermontov's life and works can be understood as manifestations of a coherent worldview.

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The Cultural Origins of the Socialist Realist Aesthetic

1890-1934

Irina Gutkin

In The Cultural Origins of the Socialist Realist Aesthetic, Irina Gutkin brings together the best work written on the subject to argue that socialist realism encompassed a philosophical worldview that marked thinking in the USSR on all levels: political, social, and linguistic. Using a wealth of diverse cultural material, Gutkin traces the emergence of the central tenants of socialist realist theory from Symbolism and Futurism through the 1920s and 1930s.

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Dimitry's Shade

A Reading of Alexander Pushkin's Boris Godunov

J. Douglas Clayton

In an ambitious reinterpretation of the premier work of Russia's national poet, J. Douglas Clayton reads Boris Godunov as the expression of Alexander Pushkin's thinking about the Russian state, especially the Russian state of his own time (some two hundred years distant from the events of the play), and even his own place within that state. Here we see how the play marks a sharp break with the Decembrists and Pushkin's own youthful liberalism, signaling its author's emergence as a Russian conservative. Boris Godunov, Clayton argues, can be best understood as an ideologically conservative defense of autocracy.

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Discovering Sexuality in Dostoevsky

Susanne Fusso

Most discussions of sexuality in the work of Dostoevsky have been framed in Freudian terms. But Dostoevsky himself wrote about sexuality from a decidedly pre Freudian perspective. By looking at the views of human sexual development that were available in Dostoevsky's time and that he, an avid reader and observer of his own social context, absorbed and reacted to, Susanne Fusso gives us a new way of understanding a critical element in the writing of one of Russia's literary masters. Beyond discovering Dostoevsky's own views and representations of sexuality as a reflection of his culture and his time, Fusso also explores his artistic treatment of how children and adolescents discover sexuality as part of their growth.

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Dostoevsky and the Riddle of the Self

Yuri Corrigan

Dostoevsky was hostile to the notion of individual autonomy, and yet, throughout his life and work, he vigorously advocated the freedom and inviolability of the self. This ambivalence has animated his diverse and often self-contradictory legacy: as precursor of psychoanalysis, forefather of existentialism, postmodernist avant la lettre, religious traditionalist, and Romantic mystic. 

Dostoevsky and the Riddle of the Self charts a unifying path through Dostoevsky's artistic journey to solve the “mystery” of the human being. Starting from the unusual forms of intimacy shown by characters seeking to lose themselves within larger collective selves, Yuri Corrigan approaches the fictional works as a continuous experimental canvas on which Dostoevsky explored the problem of selfhood through recurring symbolic and narrative paradigms. Presenting new readings of such works as The IdiotDemons, and The Brothers Karamazov, Corrigan tells the story of Dostoevsky’s career-long journey to overcome the pathology of collectivism by discovering a passage into the wounded, embattled, forbidding, revelatory landscape of the psyche. 

Corrigan’s argument offers a fundamental shift in theories about Dostoevsky's work and will be of great interest to scholars of Russian literature, as well as to readers interested in the prehistory of psychoanalysis and trauma studies and in theories of selfhood and their cultural sources.

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Dostoevsky's Dialectics and the Problem of Sin

Ksana Blank

In Dostoevsky’s Dialectics and the Problem of Sin, Ksana Blank borrows from ancient Greek, Chinese, and Christian dialectical traditions to formulate a dynamic image of Dostoevsky’s dialectics—distinct from Hegelian dialectics—as a philosophy of “compatible contradictions.”

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Dostoevsky's Secrets

Reading Against the Grain

Carol Apollonio

When Fyodor Dostoevsky proclaims that he is a "realist in a higher sense," it is because the facts are irrelevant to his truth. And it is in this spirit that Apollonio approaches Dostoevsky’s work, reading through the facts the text of his canonical novels for the deeper truth that they distort, mask, and, ultimately, disclose. This sort of reading against the grain is, Apollonio suggests, precisely what these works, with their emphasis on the hidden and the private and their narrative reliance on secrecy and slander, demand.

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Economies of Feeling

Russian Literature under Nicholas I

Jillian Porter

Economies of Feeling offers new explanations for the fantastical plots of mad or blocked ambition that set the nineteenth-century Russian prose tradition in motion. Jillian Porter compares the conceptual history of social ambition in post-Napoleonic France and post-Decembrist Russia and argues that the dissonance between foreign and domestic understandings of this economic passion shaped the literature of Nicholas I’s reign (1825 —1855).
 
Porter shows how, for Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, and Faddei Bulgarin, ambition became a staging ground for experiments with transnational literary exchange. In its encounters with the celebrated Russian cultural value of hospitality and the age-old vice of miserliness, ambition appears both timely and anachronistic, suspiciously foreign and disturbingly Russian—it challenges readers to question the equivalence of local and imported words, feelings, and forms.
 
Economies of Feeling examines founding texts of nineteenth-century Russian prose alongside nonliterary materials from which they drew energy—from French clinical diagnoses of “ambitious monomania” to the various types of currency that proliferated under Nicholas I. It thus contributes fresh and fascinating insights into Russian characters’ impulses to attain rank and to squander, counterfeit, and hoard. Porter’s interdisciplinary approach will appeal to scholars of comparative as well as Russian literature.
 

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