George Sand heroines + Russia = tragedy?
I’ve been browsing through Учитель словесности (The Teacher of Literature), by Svetlana Georgievna, a teacher in Cherepovets, west of Vologda. Among the highlights: a series of six lectures given in May by Boris Gasparov on “Stalinism as a Cultural Paradigm: Cultural Consciousness, Aesthetic Categories, Artistic Work.”
On the same blog I found lectures on the nineteenth-century Russian novel by Valentin Nedzvetskii. He initially restricts the category of the classical Russian novel to seventeen works by seven men (can you guess which? The answer begins at the 2:39 mark of the first video). A clue: Leskov and Pisemskii don’t make the list.
But then not just Pisemskii, but the book I’m currently reading, Men of the Forties, gets mentioned at the 27:25 mark of the first lecture! The context is George Sand-like female characters in second-tier Russian novels, and Nedzvetskii lists MotF and one other work by Pisemskii along with Gan, Druzhinin, Tur, Gertsen, and Chernyshevskii. His point is that Russian variations on the Sand heroine come out more tragic than Sand’s own heroines.
I’m almost done with Men of the Forties and have been thinking about what it’s supposed to say about Sand. Early on the main character Vikhrov (pro-Sand) has an argument about Sand with an eccentric, wise, and saintlike fellow student (who’s anti-Sand). So far the thesis of the book seems to be, on the one hand, that bad things happen to women who claim for themselves, or just end up with, a Sand-like sexual freedom, and on the other, that men who demand traditional, pre-Sand chastity from modern women die young and make others miserable. I’ll probably have more to say about this after I see what happens in part five.