All posts tagged Gogol

The Gulag fantastic?

I have just finished teaching a new cross-cultural course, Tales of the Unexpected, with my colleague Peter Zusi. A whistle-stop tour through the fantastic and supernatural from the Grimm brothers to H. P. Lovecraft, the course has been great fun, but beyond the appearance of Gogol (his Ukrainian folktale ‘Vii’) and Dostoevsky (the classic work […]

Top ten undead in Russian literature

“The dead are people too.” Andrei Platonov, The Foundation Pit Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the influence on nineteenth-century Russian literature of romantic and gothic sensibilities, and of fantastic writers from ETA Hoffmann to Edgar Allan Poe, the notion of the undead plays a significant role for some of the most prominent Russian writers. Encompassing not only […]

Russian thought lecture 5: Dostoevsky and the anti-rationalist argument

Reading: Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground (1864) This week we turn to the main response to the Nihilists’ ideas of rational egoism and social reorganization, in the form of Dostoevsky’s 1864 novel, Notes from Underground. Dostoevsky is the only writer whose fictional texts we are examining in any detail, but I think this is justified in […]

Review: St Petersburg city-pick

City-pick St Petersburg, ed. Heather Reyes, Marina Samsonova and James Rann (Oxygen Books, 2012) The city-pick series of anthologies of city writing has turned its attention to St Petersburg, producing a thoroughly enjoyable collection that made me want to revisit old favourites and seek out some very interesting-looking texts (particularly non-Russian ones) that I hadn’t […]

Russian thought lecture 4: Nihilism and the birth of Russian radicalism: from science to art

Readings: Nikolai Chernyshevsky, extracts from “The Anthropological Principle in Philosophy” (1860); Dmitry Pisarev, “The Realists” (1864) and “The Thinking Proletariat” (1865) We’re now moving away from the debate that arose initially out of Chaadaev’s “First Philosophical Letter” and dominated Russian intellectual life in the 1830s and 1840s. In the next generation a different set of […]

Russian thought lecture 3: The Westernizers and concepts of the self: from reconciliation to action

Readings: Vissarion Belinsky, “Society and the Individual” (1839) extracts from “Letters to Botkin” (1840-1841) and “Letter to Gogol” (1847); Alexander Herzen, extracts from “Dilettantism in Science” (1843) “From the Other Shore” (1848-9) and “Robert Owen” (1861). Having examined the Slavophiles and the development of the idea of communality as a specifically Russian phenomenon, we now […]

Mapping Gogol: Methodology

As part of our work to expand Mapping St Petersburg and develop the idea of experimenting with literary cartography, we have produced two maps visualizing the spatial arrangement of Gogol’s Peterburg Tales. The first marks all the place references in the five stories, Nevskii prospekt, The Portrait, The Diary of a Madman, The Nose and The Overcoat, while the second differentiates between the places where the action occurs, […]

Top ten letters in Russian literature

Letters play a significant role in some of my favourite works of Russian literature, and a couple in particular have been very much on my mind lately. So here is my top ten, which manages to encompass everything from the absurd to the tragic. Apologies for the plot spoilers (especially in entries 10, 7 and […]

Top ten food in Russian literature: part 2

I shall keep you in suspense no longer. 5. Shalamov, ‘Condensed Milk’. As in the case of Solzhenitsyn, hunger is ubiquitous in Shalamov’s stories, so food also plays a significant role. ‘Condensed Milk’ is unusual in depicting a moment of triumph and satiation: the narrator, offered a place on an escape, asks the ringleader Shestaskov […]

Mapping Petersburg

Over the last few months I have been working with John Levin on the pilot for a digital Russian literature project, and last week we launched the website, Mapping Petersburg: Experiments in Literary Cartography. The project aims to explore the role of Petersburg’s topography in shaping the literature for which the city is so famous, […]