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George Sand heroines + Russia = tragedy?

June 28, 2013

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.

A page from a manuscript of A Thousand Souls with corrections in Pisemskii's handwriting

A page from a manuscript of A Thousand Souls with corrections in Pisemskii’s handwriting

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.

Oh, and take a look at Svetlana Georgievna’s other blogs on literary prizes and the literature of the Vologda region, with their different and extensive blogrolls.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2013 7:58 am

    Interesting blog — I’ve bookmarked it. In case anyone’s interested, Недзвецкий is the Russian form of Polish Niedźwiedzki, from niedźwiedź ‘bear’ (and is thus the equivalent of Медведев).

  2. June 29, 2013 8:00 am

    Oh, and I guessed all seven novelists correctly! (I don’t suppose he even mentions the pre-Gogol novelists I’m so fond of.)

  3. June 29, 2013 9:27 am

    Actually, I’m pretty sure he does mention Российский Жилблаз – I thought of you! And you know the genre (of this kind of lecture) well if you guessed he’d find a way to include both Pushkin (because of the subtitle of Onegin) and Gogol (despite the subtitle of Dead Souls).

    Thanks for the note on Niedźwiedzki – I missed that entirely, even after noticing the -dz-.

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