Volume 58 Number 2 Abstracts

Historicism or Providentialism? Pushkin's History of Pugachev in the Context of French Romantic Historiography

Alexander Dolinin

Dolinin argues that A. S. Pushkin's ideology and poetics in the 1830s needs to be seen as representing some "archaic" and retrograde trends, in which Pushkin repudiates and subverts contemporaneous romantic codes. Analyzing A. S. Pushkin's History of Pugachev and comparing it to contemporary French historical narratives, Dolinin argues that Pushkin did all he could to distance himself from the codes of the new French school of historicism. Eschewing a search for historical unity and laws of history, Pushkin depicts the social upheaval of the Pugachev rebellion as a cluster of contingencies, an intrusion of chaos and unpredictability upon the established order. And if social strife by itself remains historically senseless, then the only meanings it can obtain are metahistorical and providential: what looks like evil, disorder, and chance in history becomes a signifier of underlying design (chance as a "tool of Providence") when seen metaphysically.

The Ace in the 'Queen of Spades'

Sergei Davydov

For Fedor Dostoevskii, "The Queen of Spades" was "the pinnacle of the art of the fantastic." Davydov's essay argues that the reader's vacillation between the natural and supernatural cause of an uncanny phenomenon is the chief precondition for the genre of the fantastic. An exclusive decision for or against the intrusion of the supernatural would destroy the foremost virtue of Aleksandr Pushkin's tale, the seamless fusion of the fantastic with the realistic, which both invites and frustrates logical decoding. Davydov's essay addresses three questions: (1) What is the origin of the magic trey, seven, and ace? (2) Could Germann (or the reader) have identified the three cards without the ghost's intervention? (3) How does one explain Germann's fatal blunder of confusing the ace with the queen at the end of the tale? In answering these questions, the essay considers both natural and supernatural explanations for the uncanny events of this magic tale.

Adding to the 'Guest' List: Hugo's Hernani and Pushkin's Don Juan

David Shengold

Many of the western literary sources drawn upon by Aleksandr Pushkin in his recasting of the Don Juan legend in The Stone Guest have been identified. Victor Hugo's 1830 verse drama Hernani, heretofore identified by Boris Tomashevskii only tangentially as a source for the play, in terms of "Spanishness," proves to have yielded considerable poetic material. Pushkin creatively and competitively transfigured plot and symbolic elements (including the names and interrelationships of characters) in Hernani--a vastly dissimilar work but at once a "Don Juan play" and, as the "Triumph of Romanticism," the great literary scandal of its time--in formulating his own dramatic project. Characteristically parodic on one level, Pushkin's symbolic and substantive borrowings from Hernani attain a resonance in The Stone Guest rooted in the titanic passions of Hugo's characters and in the effrontery of his verbal daring.

Pushkin's The Bronze Horseman and Irving's 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow': A Curious Case of Cultural Cross-Fertilization?

Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy

Adapting the model for Aleksandr Pushkin's borrowings from foreign authors proposed by Roman Jakobson in his "Pushkin and His Sculptural Myth," Nepomnyashchy contends that Washington Irving's short story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," may have provided Pushkin with a structural paradigm for "The Bronze Horseman." In both cases, the confrontation between the protagonist and his rival embodied in the figure of a "supernatural" horseman (Ichabod Crane and the Headless Hessian, on the one hand, and Evgenii and the Falconet statue of Peter the Great, on the other) represents the tension between competing historical forces, the incursion of a revolutionary past into the present. Nepomnyashchy concludes by suggesting that a juxtaposition of the two works prompts us to a "revisionist" reading of "The Bronze Horseman" as a parable of the constraints on the writer in Pushkin's age.

Love, Friendship, and Poetic Voice in Aleksandr Pushkin's Lycée Elegies

James L. Morgan IV

In this article, Morgan reads Aleksandr Pushkin's Lycée elegies in the context of his poetic and emotional adolescence. Drawing on biographical and formalist strains of the critical tradition, Morgan develops a reading strategy, based on the theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the psychologist G. Stanley Hall, that stresses a young man's shift from homosocial bonding to heterosexual love as the defining transformation of adolescence. Close readings of several early elegies (1816-1817) demonstrate that, in Pushkin's poetry, this psychological development is irreversible: when love has failed, friendship--and the hedonistic verse that celebrated it--offers no consolation. The poet instead finds erotic and emotional renewal in the development of an elegiac poetic voice.

Pushkin's Ironic Performances as a Gambler

Ian M. Helfant

In this essay, Helfant examines the role of gambling in Aleksandr Pushkin's life and era. He argues that Pushkin used gambling--including losses of his literary works at cards--to balance ironically between his desire to be autonomous as a writer and his need to earn a living in the literary marketplace. It also demonstrates that, while Pushkin's dueling behaviors have received more attention, his gambling provides an excellent and nuanced vehicle for exploring his sense of honor. The essay focuses upon Pushkin's literary and gambling relationship with the minor writer, I. E. Velikopol'skii, which it traces through their exchange of epigrams and private and published epistles. It frames this relationship within a discussion of gambling as a social practice in Pushkin's day and other writers' use of gambling discourse to express their social allegiances. It shows that Pushkin's nuanced incorporation of gambling into his writerly persona rivals the sophistication of his literary performances.

Writing the Story of Pushkin's Death

Leslie O'Bell

In this article, O'Bell presents a reconsideration of the available primary sources concerning the events leading to Aleksandr Pushkin's duel and death (1836-1837). This includes the recently published letters of Pushkin's opponent in the duel, Georges d'Anths, to the Baron van Heeckeren, d'Anths's patron and homosexual partner. The article considers the documentary evidence--chiefly memoirs, diaries, and letters--as the original competing versions of the framing of Pushkin's final days in forms that were strongly influenced by the literary modes and models of the day. After examining the representation of events as romantic drama or romantic narrative by high society observers, the article moves on to redirect attention to the correspondence surrounding the Pushkin-d'Anths conflict. A rereading of this material suggests parallels with the epistolary novel, in particular with Choderlos de Laclos's Liaisons dangereuses, also one of the masterpieces in the genre of the roman de libertinage.

The Patriots' Pushkin

Wendy Slater

Aleksandr Pushkin's place at the center of the Russian literary canon is unassailable. For this reason, political and literary factions of various hues have always appropriated Pushkin to defend their perception of Russian culture. This essay examines the image of Pushkin developed by the Russian national patriots of the 1990s. The starting point is the nationalists' anger in 1989 over Andrei Siniavskii's Progulki s Pushkinym. Conservatives clung to the canonical image of Pushkin--developed via Nikolai Gogol', Fedor Dostoevskii, the tsarist centenary in 1899, and the Stalinist jubilees of 1937 and 1949--under the onslaught of western popular culture and postmodernist criticism. Since 1993, however, nationalist critics have revised their image of Pushkin to emphasize his Russian Orthodox piety and his stature as the incarnation of pre-Petrine Russian values. As part of this new Russian Orthodox Pushkin, the nationalists have resurrected the conspiracy theories that routinely emerge at times of cultural flux, and in this case link Pushkin's death with a Masonic plot.