The Gothic-Fantastic in Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature

Article excerpt

Neil Cornwell, ed. The Gothic-Fantastic in Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature. Studies in Slavic Literature and Poetics, vol. XXXIII. Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1999. 293 pp. Bibliography. Index. $55.50, paper.

The Gothic is largely ignored in Russian literary criticism because it existed as a specifically defined genre in a comparatively short period of time and because it was considered a less worthy variation on a Romantic theme. Also, as this well-crafted volume regularly points out, the Gothic has been subsumed in the proliferation of more general studies on Russian Romantic literature, stylistics, and typology. This collection includes essays written by Slavists at varying stages in their career, from established authors (e.g., Priscilla Meyer, Derek Offord, and Neil Cornwell himself) to doctoral students. What is striking upon reading them all is that the Gothic should have been so overlooked until now. Most Slavists are at least familiar with the works of Vladimir Odoevskii, whose Cosmorama and Salamander are discussed in two separate essays. Some may not, however, immediately locate in a Gothic framework either Gogol (there are two essays on Vii and The Nose) or Dostoevskii (who also obtains two essays), and much less Turgenev or Chekhov.

Other contributions focus on Karamzin, Gnedich, Zhukovskii, and Pushkin, writers more traditionally thought of as having written at least some works in a Gothic vein. Though the volume's essays are not of even quality (some make more convincing arguments than others), each is a detailed analysis and discussion of the literary works) it examines. The persistent indebtedness of Russian literary criticism to structuralism is evident in practically every contribution. However, there also is some focus on narratology (Claire Whitehead's work on The Queen of Spades), on reader-response theory (Derek Offord's work on Karamzin), and on feminist literary criticism (Carolyn Jursa Ayers' essay on Elena,Gan, and Leon Burnett's article on Dostoevskii and Turgenev). …