How the Russians Read the French: Lermontov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy

Overview

Russian writers of the nineteenth century were quite consciously creating a new national literary tradition. They saw themselves self-consciously through Western European eyes, at once admiring Europe and feeling inferior to it. This ambivalence was perhaps most keenly felt in relation to France, whose language and culture had shaped the world of the Russian aristocracy from the time of Catherine the Great.

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How the Russians Read the French: Lermontov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy

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Overview

Russian writers of the nineteenth century were quite consciously creating a new national literary tradition. They saw themselves self-consciously through Western European eyes, at once admiring Europe and feeling inferior to it. This ambivalence was perhaps most keenly felt in relation to France, whose language and culture had shaped the world of the Russian aristocracy from the time of Catherine the Great.

            In How the Russians Read the French, Priscilla Meyer shows how Mikhail Lermontov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Lev Tolstoy engaged with French literature and culture to define their own positions as Russian writers with specifically Russian aesthetic and moral values. Rejecting French sensationalism and what they perceived as a lack of spirituality among Westerners, these three writers attempted to create moral and philosophical works of art that drew on sources deemed more acceptable to a Russian worldview, particularly Pushkin and the Gospels. Through close readings of A Hero of Our Time, Crime and Punishment, and Anna Karenina, Meyer argues that each of these great Russian authors takes the French tradition as a thesis, proposes his own antithesis, and creates in his novel a synthesis meant to foster a genuinely Russian national tradition, free from imitation of Western models.

 

Winner, University of Southern California Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies, American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299229344
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 5/27/2010
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Priscilla Meyer is professor of Russian at Wesleyan University and the author of Find What the Sailor Has Hidden: Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction The Russians and the French 3

1 From Poetry to Prose: Pushkin, Gogol, and the Revue etrangere 15

The Revue etrangere 15

The Bronze Horseman 17

"The Overcoat" 26

Lermontov, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy 33

2 Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time 34

Lermontov and the French 38

Pushkin 75

Synthesis: Foreign and Native 87

3 Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment 89

France 90

A Modern Gospel 139

Synthesis: Novel and Gospel 150

4 Tolstoy, Anna Karenina 152

The French and Adultery 154

The Gospels 200

Conclusion 210

From Romanticism to Realism 210

The Everyday 217

The Hierarchy of Subtexts 218

Appendix "The Flood at Nantes" 223

Notes 225

Bibliography 249

Index 263

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