Intertextual Parallels between Gogol’ and Hoffmann: A Case Study of Vii and The Devil’s Elixirs

In: Canadian-American Slavic Studies
Author: Svitlana Krys1
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Critics have noted similarities between Nikolai Gogol”s three early horror stories (Vecher nakanune Ivana Kupala [St. John’s Eve], Strashnaia mest’ [A Terrible Vengeance], and Vii) and the works of his famous German predecessor Ludwig Tieck. While some scholars have speculated on the relationship between his Ukrainian tales and the works of E.T.A. Hoffmann, detailed comparisons between the two authors have been limited only to Gogol”s “St. Petersburg” stories. By comparing and contrasting Gogol”s Vii to Hoffmann’s Die Elixiere Des Teufels [The Devil’s Elixirs], this article argues that the “Ukrainian tales” also betray some influence of Hoffmann, and that, in particular, there are intertextual connections between these two stories. This is evident on several levels: (1) in the similar depiction of the monstrous beings that appear to the protagonists in both works and influence their lives; (2) in the transformation of the protagonists into villains under the power of evil forces; (3) in the presence of a sinister double, at the “hands” of which the protagonists find their death; and (4) in the doubling of a female into an innocent and a corrupt (lustful) being. The paper contends that Gogol’ was recapitulating, consciously or unconsciously, Hoffmann’s The Devil’s Elixirs in Vii both in terms of plot detail and, as my psychoanalytical reading shows, also on the level of latent content found in both works.

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