English Pasts: Essays in Culture and History (review)
English Pasts Essays In History And Culture
With its marriage plots and drawing room conversation, The Idiot, of all Dostoevsky’s novels, is the closest to a novel of manners. But the would-be society novel clashes with a theological imperative: the re-establishment of a Christological vision, which Dostoevsky introduces into the novel embodied in the Christ-like Prince Myshkin. The presence of Christ in the drawing room of the marriage plot appears as a kind of embarrassment of genre. Taking this scenario as its departure point, the article approaches the relationship between embarrassment and narrative in The Idiotfrom two perspectives, one grounded in the vision of disintegration, the other in the vision of cohesion. Firstly, it shows how the embarrassment of this generic quandary is allied to formal difficulties in the novel’s handling of temporality and the configuration of its character system. Secondly, in discussing the possibility of unity for which the novel yearns, embarrassment is shown to participate in the ethical constitution of the reader. This study locates emotion (embarrassment) in the novel’s genre, narrative structure, and text, and locates the reader's emotion, too. Informed by sociologist Erving Goffman’s seminal analysis of embarrassment, this article also speaks to those engaged in the study of affect and the history of emotions.
English Pasts : Essays in History and Culture
The following articles comprise part of a larger project aimed at examining the history of the biographical series, Lives of Remarkable People ( Zhizn’ zamechatel’nykh liudei), as a prism through which to view continuities and change in Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet culture. Our introduction gives a brief overview of the evolution of the series, from its inception in 1890 by the publisher Florentii Fedorovich Pavlenkov through the Soviet era and into the present day at Molodaia gvardiia press. It also situates the genre of literary biography, both within the European tradition and within the series itself. The subsequent three articles arose out of panels on biography and the Russian national tradition presented at the national conferences of ASEEES and AATSEEL in 2013 and 2014. They examine the triumvirate of Pushkin, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and the changing perceptions of these literary greats as reflected in biographies from the tsarist era to the current day. All three articles are an exercise in comparative biography, and as such provide a valuable argument in favor of the rigorous study of the important functions that biography fulfills in many different societies. In comparative biography, readers “discover how reputations developed, how fashions changed, how social and moral attitudes moved, how standards of judgment altered, as each generation, one after another, continuously reconsidered and idealized or condemned its forebears in the writing and rewriting of biography” (Peter France and William St. Clair (eds.), Mapping Lives: The Uses of Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 15–16). In this sense then, no one single biography can ever become definitive because of the changing concerns and demands of different readers in succeeding eras. Our contributors trace the way that the telling of these iconic writers’ lives has evolved over three centuries fraught with political, social and literary changes; these biographies serve as tools to evaluate what each author has meant to different generations in various eras.