Thin Culture, High Art: Gogol, Hawthorne, and Authorship in Nineteenth-Century Russia and America

Thin Culture, High Art: Gogol, Hawthorne, and Authorship in Nineteenth-Century Russia and America

by Anne Lounsbery


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In Russia and America a perceived absence of literature gave rise to grandiose notions of literature's importance. This book examines how two traditions worked to refigure cultural lack, not by disputing it but by insisting on it, by representing the nation's (putative) cultural deficit as a moral and aesthetic advantage. Through a comparative study of Gogol and Hawthorne, this book examines parallels that seem particularly striking when we consider that these traditions had virtually no points of contact. Yet the unexpected parallels between these authors are the result of historical similarities: Russians and Americans felt obliged to develop a manifestly national literature ex nihilo, and to do so in an age when an unprecedented diversity of printed texts were circulating among an ever more heterogeneous reading public. Responding to these conditions, Gogol and Hawthorne articulated ideas that would prove influential for their nations' literary development: that is, despite the culture's thinness and deviation from European norms, it would soon produce works that would surpass European literature in significance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674023819
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 02/28/2007
Series: Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature , #51
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Anne Lounsbery is Assistant Professor and Director of Graduate Study in the Department of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University.

Table of Contents


Introduction. Books without Literature: Russia and America, Writers and Institutions, 1800-1850

Part One: First Writings and Institutional Negotiations

1. Early Gogol in Early Print Culture

2. Hawthorne before "Hawthorne"

Part Two: Thin Culture, High Art

1. Shallow Readers and Deep Meanings in Dead Souls

2. History, Vision, and "Ocular Relations" in The House of the Seven Gables

Part Three: Tradition and Modernity, or, What Gogol and Hawthorne found in Rome

1. Gogol in the Metropolis of Print

2. Hawthorne's Rome: Copies, Excess, and "Humbug" in The Marble Farm

Epilogue: Canonization, Influence, Judgment



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