19th Century Russian Literature


Fathers and Sons

There are winners and losers in the novel.  What factors seem to influence the happiness or satisfaction of the key characters? Are Bazarov and his ideals the real victims?


Fathers and Sons (Children and Sons)

Mikhail Morgulis remarked to me that children will not listen to thier parents, but they will watch. It is not our words, but our actions that determine how we will be judged. Examine the words and actions of Bazarov, Arkady, Pavel and Arkady’s father and determine if their actions are consistent with their words.


Dead Souls? Can a soul die?

Compliments of Cathy: Do you think Dead Souls has a plot? Does a novel need a plot to have a greater significance or meaning? If so, what is it about a cohesive story line that allows for readers to extract meaning from it? If not, what are the elements of a story (specifically Dead Souls) that make it meaningful?

And please consider the concept of the “picaresque novel” as you wonder aloud:



Did we all come from Gogol’s Overcoat or his Nose?

Which is the true Gogol? The humane critic of the social condition hoping to evoke our outrage and sympathy for the downtrodden, or the comical humorist laughing with us and at us and our human vanity? How does one reconcile the author of both of these stories?

Just for a change of pace -limit yourself to a MAXIMUM of 250 words!!!   Please!!!


Pechorin-predestined or just pretentious?

Pechorin says so many things, some clever, some true, some troubling, but is he honest with himself? Choose one of your favorite lines from his diary and comment on it, it as reflected in Pechorin and its relevance to today.


Hero of Our Time

There is a youthful energy to this text that is really a series of five stories bundled together into a whole that some call a marvelous psychological novel. What do we learn about Pechorin in each section as we see him through three sets of eyes?


The Queen of Spades

This is a complex tale that has spawned a Chaikovsky opera (sometimes know even in English under the French title Pique Dame] and several films. The inclusion of the card game (faro) opens a whole new world of associations. You will find several useful and entertaining  links below, but at the end of the day you must read the story and comment on it. Watch carefully the role of numbers, the city, time, the physical framing of characters (windows, chairs, coffins), coincidence. Is this romanticism or realism (but be sure to define those terms for yourself and your fellow readers)?

Stranger than Fiction? Man accused in North Carolina ‘scaring’ death pleads not guilty.

Saint Germain

Deck of Cards Song (Text)

The Game of Faro (History)

The Opera (Listen)

The Film

The Russian  Пиковая дама.


The Station Master and The Amateur Maid

Are we seeing a repeat of Poor Liza in poor Dunya? Is she poor or pure? Who is innocent or guilty in this story? How do the pictures of the Prodigal Son inform us? Why are the inscriptions in German?

As for the final story of Belkin’s Tales, what is Pushkin trying to accomplish? And does he?


Pushkin’s “The Shot” and “The Snowstorm.”

“But let us return to the worthy proprietors of Nenaradova, and see what is happening there.


More than once our assumptions and expectations are proven incorrect as the narratives unfold. The narratives themselves are also collections, like little Russian nested dolls, matryoshkas, where one story is embedded in side of another. Pushkin also treats us to superbly balanced stories.

There is much more to these seemingly simple stories. What struck your fancy?


Sentimentalism and Poor Liza

This story is most often characterized as “sentimentalism.” The author intends to evoke a strong emotional response to his characters and narrative. At some level we as readers are to enjoy this evocation of sentiment. You may answer anyone of these questions, but be sure to read the responses that predate your own.

1) How does the narrator establish an atmoshphre conducive to a strong emotional response?

2) What gets “lost in translation” from the story to the cartoon?

3) How are we to judge the value of this (or any) story? Is there a moral lesson? Are we “better” human beings for having read it?

4) Do you think it possible to write such a story and believe in it? Or is this author manipulating us like puppets, simply to prove that he can?

5) Why can we not simply accept the hard reality of life and appreciate Erast’s decision?

« Previous PageNext Page »
Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.