Brett Cooke. Pushkin and the Creative Process. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1998. xi, 180 pp. Illustrations. Notes. Works Cited. Index. $49.95, cloth.
Vol'f Shmid. Proza Pushkina v poeticheskom prochten: "Povesti Belkina." Saint Petersburg: Izdatel'stvo S.-Peterburgskogo universiteta, 1996. 371 pp. Index. Bibliography.
Brett Cooke and Wolf Schmid address central issues regarding Alexander Pushkin's works. Their approach reflects the rigour of traditional scholarship, and at the same time illuminates new facets of the nature of creative work. Performed admirably and thoroughly in both volumes, their approach lends yet again new life to Pushkiniana both in the West and in Russia. Both works examine the nature of Pushkin's craft-the actual "how" of his artistic view. In combination, they provide for an examination of both his prose and poetry, and as such read quite well together.
Brett Cooke's Pushkin and the Creative Process tackles the issue of creativity and what it meant to Pushkin the writer. This is an important question facing scholars of Romanticism. The Romantic writer made frequent exclamations regarding the nature of poetic inspiration in particular, boasting of its spontaneity and its divine - or demonicorigin. Basing his argument on a detailed examination of Pushkin's poems, and paying particularly close attention to discussions of the nature of creativity in these works, Cooke argues convincingly that Pushkin's poetry was as much a product of an almost supernatural poetic inspiration as it was the result of careful, deliberate planning.
The key to this investigation is presented early on in the volume. Pushkin's contemporaries claimed that he never worked into the late afternoon, but rather followed a strict, worklike existence. This would imply that his poetry was something which he approached more methodically than through capricious inspiration. This agrees nicely with the image critics have of a well-worked-over Pushkinian draft. Yet, as Cooke subsequently shows, Pushkin must have written when the Muse compelled him, even if it was late at night or during a social event with friends. In chapters such as "Verse Composed Late at Night during Insomnia," "The Daemons of Poetry," "Creative Flow," and "Poetic Thought," Cooke reveals Pushkin the writer as he most certainly was, and certainly as he hinted he was in his poems. Uncovering varying approaches and poetic theories, Cooke examines the role of creativity for Pushkin ranging from Muse to Daemon to sexual gratification and object of desire and birth. …