Character in the Short Prose of Ivan Sergeevič Turgenev


In this book, the problem of literary character is investigated in a series of detailed analyses of short stories by I.S.Turgenev: Bezhin Lea, Mumu, A Journey into Polesé, The Dog and Punin and Baburin. Up until roughly the 1920's (in Russia: before Formalism), the approach to character in literary criticism was based on the implicit assumption that literary character somehow reflected characters in real life, who were thought to have a fixed inner essence (psychological and/or ideological). In post-formalist, structuralist studies, on the other hand, character as it were dissolved into the textual fabric of the work. In this book, the basic viewpoint of structuralist theory of character, namely its exclusively textual nature, is retained. But in that case, how is the structure of character in texts of the pre-modernist era to be described, in which the belief in the existence of an inner essence in actual as well as in fictional characters had hardly yet been shaken? In order to tackle this problem, the author turns to Roman Jakobson's idea, taken up and developed by W.Schmid and A.Hansen-Löve, that the meaning of a work of literature is generated by the interaction of paradigmatic and syntagmatic mechanisms. The image of character in Turgenev's stories is the result of devices characteristic of narrative as well as of verbal art. It is partly created with the help of leitmotivs that form sequences of equivalences, and of intertextual references. Thus (social) representation is supplemented by lyrical and philosophical overtones. Comparable observations have been made by V.M.Markovic (1982) on Turgenev's novels, as well as on those by Puškin, Gogol' and Lermontov. For the assessment of intra- and intertextual equivalences it has been found of great importance to pay more attention than is usually done to folkloric connotations of details in Turgenev's fictional world. Thus new layers of meaning can be uncovered in stories that have been considered well-studied; and a first-ever interpretation is given of The Dog, a story traditionally regarded as incomprehensible.

Table of contents

Preface. Introduction. CHAPTER 1. Some general considerations on literary character. 1.0 Preliminaries. 1.1 Some reasons for discontent. 1.2 The Formalist contribution. 1.3 The actantial approach. 1.4 Further structuralist approaches. 1.5 The semiotic dilemma. 1.6 'Verbal art' and 'narrative art'. 1.7 Levels of the narrative text. 1.8 Thematical qualities of characters at the level of story. 1.9 Properties of non-actual individuals. 1.10 Identifying a personality model. CHAPTER 2. Literary character in Turgenev's prose. 2.1 Some problems of Turgenev's prose. 2.2 State or understate? 2.3 Narrator and character. 2.4 Individual existence and the problem of meaning. 2.4.1 Hamlet and Don Quixote. 2.5 Novels and stories. 2.6 The paradigmatic image of character. 2.6.1 Invariant event structure. 2.6.2 The transgression scheme in Turgenev's short prose. 2.7 The cultural context. CHAPTER 3. Notes of a Hunter. 3.1 Oppositions. 3.2 Contrast. 3.3 Hunting. 3.4 Ambiguity of the hunter figure. CHAPTER 4. Be_in Meadow. 4.1 Indirect characterization of the I-narrator. 4.2 Direct and indirect characterization of the boys. 4.3 Characterization as the result of thematic equivalences. CHAPTER 5. Mumu. 5.1 The theme. 5.2 Thematic and formal equivalences. 5.3 Intertextual equivalences. 5.3.1 Vasilij Buslaev. 5.3.2 St. Christopher. 5.4 Conclusion. CHAPTER 6. A Journey into Poles'e. 6.1 A journey into Nature. 6.2 The motif of silence. 6.3 The forest as 'anti-space'. 6.4 Efrem. 6.5 Egor. 6.6 The opposites converge. CHAPTER 7. The Dog. 7.1 Generic context. Style. 7.2 Thematic equivalences: the dogs. 7.3 The theme of sight. 7.4 Miracle-tale structure. 7.5 Cherchez la femme! 7.6 Redeeming dog and Aleksander Herzen. CHAPTER 8. Punin and Baburin. 8.1 Introduction. 8.2 Narrative perspective. 8.3 Characterization on the level of story. 8.3.1 Baburin. 8.3.2 Punin. 8.3.3 Petr Petrovi??c??. 8.3.4 Muza Pavlovna. 8.4 Literary motifs. 8.5 The motif of the garden. 8.6 Baburin's name and outward appearance. 8.7 Conclusion. Conclusions. Fährtensuche. Nachwort. Von Rainer Grübel. References.

Index Card