The House in Russian Literature

A Mythopoetic Exploration


The domestic theme has a tremendous anthropological, literary and cultural significance. The purpose of this book is to analyse and interpret the most important realisations and tendencies of this thematic complex in the history of Russian literature. It is the first systematic book-length exploration of the meaning and development of the House theme in Russian literature of the past 200 years. It studies the ideological, psychological and moral meanings which Russian cultural and literary tradition have invested in the house or projected on it in literary texts. Central to this study’s approach is the concept of the House Myth, consisting of a set of basic fabular elements and a set of general types of House images. This House Myth provides the general point of reference from which the literary works were analyzed and compared. With the help of this analytical procedure characteristics of individual authors could be described as well as recurrent patterns and features discerned in the way Russian literature dealt with the House and its thematics, thus reflecting characteristics of Russian literary world pictures, Russian mentalities and Russian attitudes towards life. This book is of interest for students of Russian literature as well as for those interested in the House as a cultural and literary topic, in the semiotics of literature, and in relations between culture, anthropology and literature.

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Table of contents

Part I. What is a House?
The House as Archetype and Archetope of Human Culture. Its Origins and Universal Features in Relation to the Indo-European Tradition
The House Myth and the House as a Model of the World. Some Observations about the Russian Cultural Tradition
The Psychopoetics of the House and Archaic Thinking
The House and its Functions in Structuring Narrative and Poetic Worlds: the House as Myth
Part II. The House Myth in 19th and 20th Century Russian Literature and Culture
Two Strong Images
The Domostroi and Some Other Old Russian Reflexes: Ostrovskii, Dostoevskii, Leskov, Zamiatin
Peter the Great’s Window on Europe
Chaadaev’s Homelessness. The Beginning of a Long Tradition
Some Diachronic Considerations. The Beginning of the Nineteenth Century. The Natural School
The Slavophile Domus
Pushkin’s Houses. The Craving for Homeliness
Lermontov’s Cosmic Homelessness
Gogol’. The Bachelor, and the House as a Box
The House Myth Between the Natural School and Realism. From the City to the Countryside
The Russian Estate. The Domus Myth and the ‘Nests of the Gentry’
Turgenev and the Domus
Goncharov. Homelessness Between Arcadian Dreams and Precipices
Saltykov-Shchedrin. Houses of Death
Tolstoi and Family Life
Bunin. Remembering the House. The Body in the World
Dostoevskii. The Underground Man and the Accidental Family
The End of Realism. The Onset of Modernism. New Anxieties
Garshin’s World as Prison
Chekhov. Ambiguous Dachas and Mansions
Symbolism. Demonic Urbanism and Catastrophic Expectations
Briusov and Blok
Belyi’s Cosmic House. The Big Bang and the Temple of the Body
From Symbolism to Futurism
Guro. A New House and a New Life. The Magic of a Child’s Vision
Khlebnikov. The House of Language. A Body to Live in
Maiakovskii. Realising the Metaphor. The Self as a House
Zabolotskii. Modernist. Archaist
The Catastrophe. The Loss of the Centre
Pil’niak. Life and Death of the House
Zamiatin. The Cave Myth Revisited
Platonov’s Paradoxes and Pseudologics. Negative Spaces and Houses on the Move
The House and Socialism. Trifonov, Chukovskaia and Akhmatova
Anti-Houses. Under the Doom of the Kommunalka. Deformations of the Utopian House
Bulgakov. The House as a Metaphysical Home
Solzhenitsyn. The Gulag World. ‘Matriona’s House’
Erofeev. Venichka’s Homelessness in the Soviet Universe
Sorokin’s Roman. A Postmodernist Attempts the Destruction of the Domus
Makanin’s Underground. Homeless Under a Roof

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