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

Paperback | May 27, 2010

byPriscilla Meyer

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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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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 t...

Priscilla Meyer is professor of Russian at Wesleyan University and the author of Find What the Sailor Has Hidden: Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:296 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.7 inPublished:May 27, 2010Publisher:University Of Wisconsin PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0299229343

ISBN - 13:9780299229344

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Table of Contents

Contents
Acknowledgments       
Introduction: The Russians and the French                  
1. From Poetry to Prose: Pushkin, Gogol', and the Revue étrangère                
            The Revue étrangère                                                  
            "The Bronze Horseman"                                               
            "The Overcoat"                                                
            Lermontov, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy                
2. Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time                             
            Lermontov and the French                                           
            Pushkin                                                                       
            Synthesis                                                                     
3. Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment                      
            France                                                             
            A Modern Gospel                                                       
            Synthesis: Novel and Gospel                            
 4. Tolstoy, Anna Karenina                             
            The French and Adultery                                             
            The Gospels                                                                
Conclusion                                                                              
            From Romanticism to Realism                          
            The Everyday                                                  
            The Hierarchy of Subtexts                                            
 
Appendix: "The Flood at Nantes"                                             
Notes                                                                                      
Bibliography                                                                            
Index                                                                                       

Editorial Reviews

“[Meyer] excels in her exegeses by the careful examination of many sources . . . . This is a satisfying read.”—Alex Moore, ForeWord