In: The Dostoevsky Journal
In: The Dostoevsky Journal
Author: Janet Tucker

From Alexander Pushkin and Fyodor Dostoevsky in the nineteenth century to Andrei Bitov in the twentieth, St. Petersburg functions as a critical element in Russian literature and social thought. The great nineteenth-century prose writer and playwright Nikolai Gogol strikingly embodies motifs and themes associated with Russia’s great yet dysfunctional and, ultimately, erstwhile capital city. Gogol is especially celebrated for his fragmented and surreal images, his sense of a terrifying void lurking beneath an apparently solid surface reality and his dehumanized characters, all of which are linked with the city of St. Petersburg. The reader encounters these elements from Gogol’s first tales, embedded in his native Ukraine. They will figure significantly in such St. Petersburg stories as “The Nose” and “The Overcoat.” Most importantly, even those later works not set in St. Petersburg – his play The Inspector General and his unfinished novel Dead Souls – incorporate features peculiar to Gogol’s reading of a terrifying and, in the end, alien urban environment. For Gogol, St. Petersburg betokens the void, a deceptive superficial reality, and a blurring of the boundaries between the phenomenal and noumenal worlds. Carried further, Gogol uses his reading of St. Petersburg symbolism to blur the line between the living and the dead, with damnation lying just beneath an illusory surface reality of an evil Westernized city founded by the tsar who led Russia away from traditional values. His characters embody this Westernized capital city and carry it around with themselves even in provincial settings far away from its dangerous glitter.

In: Canadian-American Slavic Studies
Author: Janet G. Tucker
Profane Challenge and Orthodox Response in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment presents for the first time an examination of this great novel as a work aimed at winning back “target readers”, young contemporary radicals, from Utilitarianism, nihilism, and Utopian Socialism. Dostoevsky framed the battle in the context of the Orthodox Church and oral tradition versus the West. He relied on knowledge of the Gospels as text received orally, forcing readers to react emotionally, not rationally, and thus undermining the very basis of his opponents’ arguments. Dostoevsky saves Raskol’nikov, underscoring the inadequacy of rational thought and reminding his readers of a heritage discarded at their peril. This volume should be of special interest to secondary and university students, as well as to readers interested in literature, particularly, in Russian literature, and Dostoevsky.
Author: Janet G. Tucker

Throughout his oeuvre, Gogol's prose is marked by fragmentation and disintegration. Gogol typically employs fragments in the form of garments, body parts, and even literal particles (the sugar imagery in his novel Dead Souls). He continues and refines this practice in his short-story masterpiece “The Overcoat,” applying fragmentation to the very structure of this tale. “The Overcoat” is a generically fragmented piece, and different genres “jockey for position” within a single work. The following genres play a significant role: hagiography, the physiological sketch, the gothic tale, bureaucratic prose plus the oral tale, and the society tale. Gogol parodies and travesties these genres, in effect doubling them and therefore fragmenting them further. Moreover, “foreign” genres – the society tale, the physiological sketch, bureaucratic prose – emerge as usurpers (contaminators) of hagiography. Gogol replicates images with structure to underscore his anti-Western stance and defend intrinsically Russian culture.

In: Canadian-American Slavic Studies