The Superstitious Muse

The Superstitious Muse

by David Bethea


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The Superstitious Muse by David Bethea

For several decades David Bethea has written authoritatively on the “mythopoetic thinking” that lies at the heart of classical Russian literature, especially Russian poetry. His theoretically informed essays and books have made a point of turning back to issues of intentionality and biography at a time when authorial agency seems under threat of “erasure” and the question of how writers, and poets in particular, live their lives through their art is increasingly moot. The lichnost’ (personhood, psychic totality) of the given writer is all-important, argues Bethea, as it is that which combines the specifically biographical and the capaciously mythical in verbal units that speak simultaneously to different planes of being. Pushkin’s Evgeny can be one incarnation of the poet himself and an Everyman rising up to challenge Peter’s new world order; Brodsky can be, all at once, Dante and Mandelstam and himself, the exile paying an Orphic visit to Florence (and, by ghostly association, Leningrad).This sort of metempsychosis, where the stories that constitute the Ur-texts of Russian literature are constantly reworked in the biographical myths shaping individual writers’ lives, is Bethea’s primary focus. This collection contains a liberal sampling of Bethea’s most memorable previously published essays along with new studies prepared for this occasion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781934843178
Publisher: Academic Studies Press
Publication date: 11/03/2009
Series: Studies in Russian and Slavic Literatures, Cultures, and History Series
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

David Bethea (Ph.D. University of Kansas, 1977) is a Vilas Professor of Slavic Languages, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Research interests include: Pushkin and his era, modern Russian poetry (esp. Khodasevich and Brodsky), Russian religious thought and cultural mythology, Russian émigré literature, Anglo-American vs. Russian modernism, 20th century Russian/Slavic literary theory (esp. influence studies), biography. Among his books are: Joseph Brodsky and the Creation of Exile (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), and Realizing Metaphors: Alexander Pushkin and the Life of the Poet (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998).

Table of Contents

Preface: David Bethea. Introduction: Caryl Emerson. Part One: Russian Literature: Background, Foreground, Creative Cognition. 1. The Mythopoetic "Vectors" of Russian Literature. 2. Mythopoesis Writ Large: The Apocalyptic Plot in Russian Literature. 3. Mythopoesis and Biography: Pushkin, Jakobson, and the Secret Life of Statues. 4. The Evolution of Evolution: Genes, Memes, Intelligent Design and Nabokov. 5. Relativity and Reality: Dante, Florensky, Lotman, and Metaphorical Time-Travel. 6. Whose Mind is this Anyway? Influence, Intertextuality, and the Legitimate Boundaries of Scholarship. Part 2: Pushkin the Poet, Pushkin the Thinker. 7. Of Pushkin and Pushkinists. 8. Biography (with Sergei Davydov). 9. Pushkin's Mythopoetic Consciousness: Apuleius, Psyche and Cupid, and the Theme of Metamorphosis in Eugene Onegin. 10. "A Higher Audacity": How to Read Pushkin's Dialogue with Shakespeare in The Stone Guest. 11. Stabat Pater: Revisiting the "Monumental" in Peter, Petersburg, and Pushkin. 12. Slavic Gift Giving, the Poet in History, and Pushkin's The Captain's Daughter. 13. Pushkin's The History of Pugachev: Where Fact Meets the Zero-Degree of Fiction. Part 3: Reading Russian Writers Reading Themselves and Others. 14. Sorrento Photographs: Khodasevich's Memory Speaks. 15. Nabokov's Style. 16. Sologub, Nabokov, and the Limits of Decadent Aesthetics. 17. Exile, Elegy, and Auden in Brodsky's "Verses on the Death of T.S. Eliot". 18. Joseph Brodsky and the American Seashore Poem: Lowell, Mandelstam, and Cape Cod. 19. Joseph Brodsky's "To My Dauther" (A Reading). 20. Brodsky, Frost and the Pygmalion Myth. Index.

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