19th Century Russian Literature


The Notes from the Underground

When you have read Part I and the first part of Frank’s article, then familiarize yourselves with Existentialism (Wikipedia believe it or not is good place to start). So armed re-read the footnote in Frank drawing on Hirsch’s definition of “meaning” and “significance.” Sine Frank attempts to provide the meaning of the text, let your own response be to its significance for you. The Underground man desires a debate-give it to him. You can accept or refute his assertions on “two times two,” “The Crystal Palace,” “the toothache,” “the anthill,” “free will,” or whatever other topic might strike your fancy.  (300 words is plenty-we do want to discuss the text.!  🙂


Looking ahead to projects.

By Thursday April 2 before class each project group should outline its projects and provide a list of participants as a comment to this blog entry.


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.


Agonizing over translations

“35 To reproduce this story with a raciness worthy of the Russian original is practically impossible. The translator has not attempted the task.” C. J. Hogarth admits his helplessness before the task, but goes on to give not even a translation, but a paraphrase of the tale of Captain Kopeikin. This calls into question the very essence of the text and of our task as readers. I have once again begun to compare the original with a number of translations. No wonder poor Gogol falls short in some versions-he is mercilessly cut like an order of salami in which the unskilled apprentice decides to cut out the chunks of fat because they are fat, thereby depriving the salami of its taste. Should we visit a different butcher? No comments required, but anyone with recommendations for a new shop is welcome.


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!!!


Looking beyond the text.

The Russian writer and editor, Mikhail Morgulis, has posed a number of questions concerning the essence of Russian literature. I am eager to hear your opinions?

1. Russian literature has much that is pure, but life has so much that is putrid. Why? Is the same for other nations?

2. The Nobel Prize winner, Iosif Brodsky once said that all “exalted” poetery, “high” literature is spiritual. But it seems to me , that it is not always the case. There are great works, imbued with teh spirit of the Anti-Christ.
What do you think?

3. Some literature is not bad.  But it is a fake. Just as some people are not genuine, they are frauds. For we live in a world of imitations, frauds. Just as there are genuine people and fakes. How does one in this life attempt to separate the genuine from the fraudulent? Even when there are real and capable people, and their literature is a fraud. People have learned to imitate almost everything: love, friendship, and yes, literature, too. And the majority of those in the world make use on a daily basis not of the real thing, but of fake imitations, yet don’t know it. Have you had any personal experience with how to distinguish the real from the imitation? Depending on our ability to distinguish between them we will either remain human beings or turn into robots.

What would you tell Mikhail?

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