The Cambridge Introduction to Russian Literature (Cambridge Introductions to Literature)

The Cambridge Introduction to Russian Literature (Cambridge Introductions to Literature)

Caryl Emerson

Language: English

Pages: 308

ISBN: 0521606527

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Russian literature arrived late on the European scene. Within several generations, its great novelists had shocked - and then conquered - the world. In this introduction to the rich and vibrant Russian tradition, Caryl Emerson weaves a narrative of recurring themes and fascinations across several centuries. Beginning with traditional Russian narratives (saints' lives, folk tales, epic and rogue narratives), the book moves through literary history chronologically and thematically, juxtaposing literary texts from each major period. Detailed attention is given to canonical writers including Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Bulgakov and Solzhenitsyn, as well as to some current bestsellers from the post-Communist period. Fully accessible to students and readers with no knowledge of Russian, the volume includes a glossary and pronunciation guide of key Russian terms as well as a list of useful secondary works. The book will be of great interest to students of Russian as well as of comparative literature.

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(1895–1975). Bakhtin was a profound student of parody, in which he heard a rich “double-voicedness” and thus the potential for achieving that most difficult human virtue: responsible, or answerable, freedom. His readings of Dostoevsky from this perspective are highly provocative. Respectful parody also permeates the Bakhtinian idea of carnival as open-ended, two-way or reciprocal laughter. More central than freedom or carnival to our discussions, however, will be Bakhtin’s less flashy, more

against the subcontinents – Europe and Asia proper – that flank Russia to the west, south, and east, this tradition is remarkable in two respects: its extreme brevity, and its lateness. Chinese literature is calibrated in millennia. Masterpieces in Arabic date from the fifth century. Dante wrote his Commedia in the early fourteenth century and Shakespeare his unparalleled English works at the end of the sixteenth. But Russia as a literary nation entered into consciousness (her own, and the

became home to all those heroes who, abandoning the center or exiled from it, explored the periphery. Three peculiarities of this expansion are worth noting.15 First, a continental empire of Russia’s vast and thinly populated sort, bordered by hostile Catholic 44 The Cambridge Introduction to Russian Literature or Protestant peoples to the west and hostile Islamic or pagan cultures to the south and east, gave rise to what might be called the “contiguous exotic.” But unlike the classical

tension was necessary, as a tribute to the mandatory neoclassical conflict between love and honor, the passions conquered by reason. Russian tragedians were expected to portray a victory of virtue over vice. Not only pity and fear but also “admiration” was a crucial source of tragic emotion.2 In tragedy, with its abstract characters, heightened rhetoric, and familiar plots distanced in time and space, “Russianness” (and in this case, Shakespeare-ness too) mattered little. The chronotope of comedy

carrion.” Both men fall silent. Not only does each live by his own truth, which is beyond the other’s judgment, but only by speaking one’s truth can a life be saved – one’s own, or another’s. In Chapter 8, Pugachov demands that Grinyov recognize him as Tsar Peter III. “Judge for yourself,” Grinyov responds. “You’re a sharp-witted person: you’d be the first to realize that I was faking . . . I swore allegiance to her Majesty the Empress; I cannot serve you.”26 Pugachov is impressed by this

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