A Systems Approach to Literature: Mythopoetics of Chekhov's Four Major Plays

A Systems Approach to Literature: Mythopoetics of Chekhov's Four Major Plays

A Systems Approach to Literature: Mythopoetics of Chekhov's Four Major Plays

A Systems Approach to Literature: Mythopoetics of Chekhov's Four Major Plays


This systematic approach to the study of literary works involves the search for mythological archetypes, parallels, paradigms, and motives in a literary text. In a new attempt at an integrated vision of literary works, Zubarev presents a comprehensive approach on the basis of mythopoetics. Her theory is verified through a close examination of four of Chekhov's major plays: The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard. Zubarev presents a compelling approach to literary analysis, and explores the enigmatic roots of Chekhov's universal significance. Her mythopoetic study sheds light on why Chekhov's plays are moving in any language and in any time.


This book was conceived many years ago when I lived in the Ukraine and was an M.A. student at Odessa University. At that time, conservative Soviet literary criticism did not permit any new movements except those which developed concepts concerning socialist realism in its different variations. It especially concerned those masters of Russian literature who, in accordance with the general tenet, should have served as forerunners of the "genuine" literary movement. Needless to say, Chekhov was used successfully as a model for such socialist propaganda. Today it would be very difficult to investigate how many interesting, innovative concepts of former Soviet critics were ruined while still in their infancy and how many creative lives were destroyed.

In this connection, I should recall the name of my late teacher, a professor of Russian literature, Stepan Iliyov--one of the most popular professors at the University of Odessa, who was published abroad. Iliyov's unique research on the mythopoetics of Russian Symbolists was prohibited for many years; Soviet periodicals were forbidden to publish his works; and he was unable to defend his dissertation until quite recently, just several years before his premature death. a tragic life and death of another persecuted professor of Russian literature, Yury Marmeladov, whose strikingly bright analysis on mythopoetics of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky was posthumously published in Russia, may also serve as an example of that dull history.

My first attempts to analyze Chekhov's poetics as related to mythology were highly appreciated by Iliyov. He supported my scholarly endeavors and recommended my article to a literary journal, Voprosy russkoy literatury. I remember a long, angry letter from an anonymous reader who blamed me for my daring attempt to misrepresent Chekhov; I also remember a short, warm letter from the editor of the journal who persuaded me to continue my research despite any current difficulties. in her letter, the editor apologized for her inability to publish my article, implying the cause to be the tendentiousness of contemporary Soviet criticism. At the same time, she expressed her belief that, sometime, my research would see the light of day. Those who remember the political situation before perestroika can appreciate the bravery of the editor of an academic journal who was not afraid to express her solidarity with a "rebel" young author.

It is always gratifying to see positive changes in time. Some remarkable research on Chekhov's poetics has appeared in European and American criticism, among them such notable contributions to Chekhov's mythopoetics as those of Laurence Senelick and Savely Senderovich. Also, in Russian criticism, the in-

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