The Woman in the Window: Commerce, Consensual Fantasy, and the Quest for Masculine Virtue in the Russian Novel

The Woman in the Window: Commerce, Consensual Fantasy, and the Quest for Masculine Virtue in the Russian Novel

by Russell Scott Valentino


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In The Woman in the Window: Commerce, Consensual Fantasy, and the Quest for Masculine Virtue in the Russian Novel, Russell Scott Valentino offers pioneering new insights into the historical construction of virtue and its relation to the rapidly shifting economic context in modern Russia. This study illustrates how the traditional virtue ethic, grounded in property-based conceptions of masculine heroism, was eventually displaced by a new commercial ethic that rested upon consensual fantasy. The new economic world destabilized traditional Russian notions of virtue and posed a central question that Russian authors have struggled to answer since the early nineteenth century: How could a self-interested commercial man be incorporated into the Russian context as a socially valuable masculine character?

With chapters on Gogol, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky as well as Pasternak and Nabokov, The Woman in the Window argues that Russian authors worked through this question via their depictions of “mixed-up men.” Such characters, according to Valentino, reveal that in a world where social reality and personal identity depend on consensual fantasies, the old masculine figure loses its grounding and can easily drift away. Valentino charts a range of masculine character types thrown off stride by the new commercially inflected world: those who embrace blind confidence, those who are split with doubt or guilt, and those who look for an ideal of steadfastness and purity to keep afloat—a woman in a window.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814252871
Publisher: Ohio State University Press
Publication date: 06/01/2016
Edition description: 1
Pages: 186
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Russell Scott Valentino is professor and chair in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

A Note on the Transliteration of Russian x

Preface and Acknowledgments xi

Introduction In Search of (Russian) Virtue 1

Virtue Unearthed 1

The Very Word 2

Two Visions of (American) Virtue 5

After Virtual 9

American Property, Russian Earth 10

Virtue as One and as Many 17

Chapter 1 Three Modern Characters: The Double, the Con Man, and the Woman in the Window 20

The Speaker's Ethos 20

Characters 22

The Amazing Mr. Golyadkin (Junior) 25

Gogol's Man of Confidence 27

The Woman in the Window 30

Chapter 2 The Commercial Ethic in Gogol's Dead Souls 40

Order in the Gallery 40

A Commercial Catalogue 42

The Advent of Refined Avarice 54

Le doux Chichikov and the Worth of a Man 58

Chapter 3 In Search of the Virtuous Man: Minor Readings 66

Divided Man 66

Whole Man 76

Chapter 4 Lara, Lolita, and Other Things that Start with L 89

Two Books, Four Movies 92

Women in Windows 99

Doubles and Heroes 105

Conclusion: DeLillo's Cosmopolis and the End of an Idiom 110

World City 115

Body, Mind, Body 116

Property, the Road, and the Confidence Man 120

Doubt, the Double, and the Sick Cosmopolitan 123

Behind the Kitchen Door 128

Notes 131

Bibliography and Filmography 149

Index 161

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