Nightmare: From Literary Experiments to Cultural Project


What is a nightmare as a psychological experience, a literary experiment and a cultural project? Why has experiencing a nightmare under the guise of reading a novel, watching a film or playing a video game become a persistent requirement of contemporary mass culture? By answering these questions, which have not been addressed by literary criticism and cultural studies, we can interpret anew the texts of classic authors. Charles Maturin, Nikolai Gogol, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Thomas Mann, Howard Philips Lovecraft and Victor Pelevin carry out bold experiments on their heroes and readers as they seek to investigate the nature of nightmare in their works. This book examines their prose to reveal the unstudied features of the nightmare as a mental state and traces the mosaic of coincidences leading from literary experiments to today’s culture of nightmare consumption.

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Dina Khapaeva (Professor and Chair, School of Modern Languages, Georgia Institute of Technology), is the author of four monographs (including Nouveau portrait de la Russie: essais sur la société gothique, translated from Russian by Nina Kehayan, Eds. de l’Aube, 2012 forthcoming) and has published more than 50 articles concerning historical memory, intellectual history, the history of culture and literary criticism.
“A highly original feature of this study is its critical discussion of Mikhail Bakhtin’s reading of Dostoevskii.[…] This lucidly written and well-structured book will greatly appeal to academic specialists in literature, culture and linguistics.” - A.Y. Arkatova, in: The Slavonic and East European Review 92.4, pp. 743-744 []
“Khapaeva’s analyses are insightful and often startlingly fresh—most strikingly in their compelling demonstration that the nightmare, taken quite literally, was an important structuring metaphor for many classics of Russian literature.” - Kevin Platt, University of Pennsylvania, President of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic Languages
“In this book, an eminent sociologist turns her eye inward, to the intersection of lived experience, creative fiction, and horror. How does a nightmare differ from a dream? … With the help of precise argumentation, Khapaeva shows us how Bakhtin, faced with a nightmare scenario, can often mislead us with his faith in "consciousness" and "construct.” She restores to the nightmare its horror, and to the writer his fullness of vision.” - Caryl Emerson, Princeton University
"Dina Khapaeva has contributed much to our understanding of these writers, especially Gogol, and Dostoevsky. The long section on the latter can be seen as the centerpiece of the book: her treatment of “The Double”, in particular, should inform Dostoevskian scholarship from now on; her scathing critique of Bakhtin, too, is bracing, and will invite debate." - Ray Miller, Bowdoin College, in: Russian Journal of Communication, Vol. 4, Nos. 3/4, p.382

I The Nightmare of Literature

1 Sources
Unfinished experiments on the reader: Nikolai Gogol. The Petersburg Tales
“Nevsky Prospect”: The Gogol Code
Two “Portraits”: What Gogol’s Nightmare Is Made Of
“The Nose”: An Experiment of Literature
“Diary of a Madman”: The Tyranny of the Author
Gogol and the Devil: Materialization of a Nightmare

2 The Nightmare Alphabet
A. Victor Pelevin
Does Pelevin Fit Gogol’s Overcoat?
The Philosophical Ink-well
The Nightmare Formula
Mozart’s Infernal Fugue
The Void of Post-Soviet Selective Amnesia
B. Howard Phillips Lovecraft
‘Freezing Chatterings’
The Hedonism of Nightmares
Unholy and Paradoxical Laws
The Mutiny of the ‘Generator of Dreams’

3 The Muteness of Nightmares
Experiments on the Hero
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky – The Double: A Petersburg Poem
The Scoundrel Hero
The Gogolian Awakenings of Titular Councillor Golyadkin
The Emotions of the Experimental Hero
The ‘True Story’ of the Nightmare
Lapses and Ruptures
The Hypnotics of the “Petersburg Poem”
The Seven Circles of The Double
Mr. Golyadkin’s Déjà Vu
Natasha Rostova’s Déjà Vu
Foresight and Presentiments
The Mumbling of Nightmares
Fyodor Dostoevsky. “The Landlady” and “Mr Prokharchin”
The Mute Hero
Ivan Semyonovich Prokharchin’s Pursuit
The Incantation
Experiments on the Writer. Mikhail Bakhtin. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics
Self-Consciousness and the Menippea
The Double: A ‘Homophony of Corrupted Self-Consciousness’?
Bakhtin’s Reading of “Bobok”
Recording the Nightmare Sounds

4 Interpretation of the Nightmare: Thomas Mann. Joseph and His Brothers.
In the Jaws of History
Gaps in the Eternal Present
The Nightmare Temporal Horizon

II The Nightmare of Culture
The History of Literature and the Nightmare
The Culture of Nightmare Consumption
The Nightmare and the Subjectivity of Individual Time
Victor Pelevin and Vladimir Sorokin as Proof of the Gothic Aesthetic
1. Pelevin’s Gothic Path
2. Sorokin’s Madagascar

All these interested in cultural studies, literary criticism, especially Bakhtin, Russian classical literature, especially Gogol and Dostoevsky, the 19th century Gothic novel and contemporary Gothic, as well as in the nature of nightmare as a specific phychological experience.
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