Reference Guide to Russian Literature

By Neil Cornwell; Nicole Christian | Go to book overview

possible fields — fiction, drama, philosophical essays, poetry — and as editor and publisher as well as writer. While acknowledging the role that Catherine the Great had played in enhancing the prestige of writers, Karamzin drew pointed attention to the essentially amateur nature of her own pastimes with her pen. What distinguished the truly committed professional writer in Karamzin's eyes was his gift of being a unique vessel to hold genius. A writer's personality should be projected in his works, not out of vanity, but as a focus for genius. Behind that confident assertion of the writer's standing in society lay all the strivings to establish foundations of a national Russian literature in the I8th century.

The influence now exercised by the individual author on his society had its darker side. The last decade of the century, it is true, would be known as Karamzin's period in recognition of his intellectual and moral leadership. Those closing years would also be remembered as the time when the Russian state, in the person of Catherine the Great, alarmed by the French Revolution of 1789, moved to silence authors suspected, however unjustly, of being threats to the established political order. Radishchev, whose A Journey from St Petersburg to Moscow might well have been welcomed by Catherine earlier in her reign as an argument in favour of enlightenment, was exiled to Siberia for publishing a book now perceived as seditious. Novikov, whose whole career had been devoted to succouring Catherine's enlightened literary enterprises, was sentenced in 1792 to 20 years' incarceration in the Schlüsselburg fortress, and suspect publications impounded in his presses and bookshops were condemned to be burnt in 1793-94.

As the new century dawned, Russian literature already possessed its martyrs, casting a dark shadow on the triumphal achievements of those pioneers who had discovered a supple literary language, new literary forms, and a confidence to break free from the restraints of foreign Neoclassical models. Russian literature had revealed the power of the individual conscience in the Russian writer.


Aleksandr Pushkin: From Byron to Shakespeare

It is something of a textbook topos that different national literatures have their own quite different national poets — father figures who are considered seminal or originary (the "origin without origin") to the nation's culture and world-view. What is less easily explained is how and why a certain national poet should appear on the scene precisely when he does. Why, for example, should Dante epitomize Italian Catholic culture in the I3th-I4th centuries, Shakespeare Anglo-Saxon culture in the I6th-I7th centuries, and Goethe German culture in the I8th-I9th centuries? Clearly, the problem is more complicated than the serviceable apophthegm of genius "being in the right place at the right time", for what we are dealing with in these special instances is the combination (two-way, mutually interpenetrating) of an individual and a culture/national identity both coming of age, and knowing or sensing, they are coming of age, at the same time. The young man who may have been involved in a libellous deer-poaching incident or the wealthy senior citizen who mysteriously wills his wife a "second-best bed" becomes Shakespeare, going to his grave, as a recent biographer phrases it, "not knowing, and possibly not caring, whether Macbeth or The Tempest or Antony and Cleopatra ever achieved the permanence of print" ( S. Schoenbaum). Great contemporaries such as Spenser or Jonson become instead, on the scales of history, foils of genius — Laertes to the Hamlet whose play-within-the-play contains them, rather than the other way around.

One ingredient in this coming-of-age formula is the awareness of the necessity of a mature inside/outside perspective: what is "ours", beginning with a national poetic tradition, has sufficient internal dignity and grandeur that it can, now for the first time, take on the challenge of the larger, supranational context (here European high culture, the classical and Judaeo-Christian traditions, and so on) as an equal. Poised on this inside/outside, ours/theirs seam, the culture, through the creations of this gifted individual, comes to value its own unique character in a manner that seems not parochial but universal. (This is what Dostoevskii was alluding to with reference to universal otzyvchivost', "responsiveness", in his famous Pushkin speech.) A poet's "source material", broadly defined, including historical personages and famous characters from literature, plots, genre conventions, rules of style, rhyme schemes and metres, are no longer simply "imitated" or copied (the relation of the lesser to the greater), but are borrowed freely and boldly and reworked in accordance with this new mature outlook. Shakespeare uses Holinshed respectfully but creatively; Pushkin uses his teacher Karamzin in precisely the same way.

The present essay is an attempt to place Russia's national poet in a correct alignment along this inside/outside seam. My argument, in brief, will be that for Pushkin, Byron and Shakespeare, as creative writers and personalities, represented a crucial choice in the period 1824-26; and furthermore, that being English, these figures offered the "Frenchman" (his nickname at the Lycée) Pushkin a choice of romantic personality (lichnost') versus "romantic" art, but romantic art defined in a special, non- or anti-Byronic way. Pushkin needed the Byronic personality up to a point to define his emerging authorial "I", and in a real sense he never stopped being interested in that personality and never stopped, in his typically masked, indirect way, applying the lessons of that personality to his own life and artistic career. However, at a rather precise juncture, by now


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Reference Guide to Russian Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Reference Guide to Russian Literature *
  • Contents *
  • Editor's Note vii
  • Advisers xi
  • Contributors xi
  • Alphabetical List of Writers and Works xiii
  • Alphabetical List of Works xix
  • Chronological List of Writers xxiii
  • General Reading List xxvii
  • Chronology xxxv
  • Glossary xxxix
  • Introductory Essays *
  • Old Russian Literature 3
  • Pre-Revolutionary Russian Theatre 9
  • Russian Literature in the I8th Century 13
  • Aleksandr Pushkin: from Byron to Shakespeare 18
  • The Classic Russian Novel 25
  • The Superfluous Man in Russian Literature 29
  • Women's Writing in Russia 35
  • Russian Literary Theory: from the Formalists to Lotman 40
  • Post-Revolutionary Russian Theatre 45
  • Experiment and Emigration: Russian Literature, 1917-1953 49
  • Socialist Realism in Soviet Literature 55
  • Thaws, Freezes, and Wakes: Russian Literature, 1953-1991 59
  • Russian Literature in the Post-Soviet Period 64
  • Writers and Works *
  • A 73
  • B 127
  • C 213
  • D 237
  • E 271
  • F 297
  • G 311
  • H 379
  • I 389
  • K 413
  • L 485
  • M 521
  • N 559
  • O 585
  • P 611
  • R 685
  • S 707
  • T 789
  • U 859
  • V 861
  • Y 897
  • Z 899
  • Title Index 933
  • Notes on Advisers and Contributors 963


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 972

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.