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Title:The imagined wealth and real misfortune in nineteenth-century Russian prose
Author(s):Khokholova, Natalya G.
Director of Research:Lalo, Alexei
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Finke, Michael
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Sobol, Valeria; Cooper, David; Randolph, John W.
Department / Program:Slavic Languages & Literature
Discipline:Slavic Languages & Literature
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Russian Literature, money and gossip, gothic fiction
Abstract:ABSTRACT This dissertation is an endeavor to read Russian classics by concentrating on the economic mechanisms underlying the works' plot development, rather than on the metaphysical and psychological issues involving the protagonists’ disillusionment with life and society. This work analyzes select works of Russian fiction from 1792 and from 1834-1867, which pursued the theme of commercial interests in the diminishing fictional universe of Russian nobility. Several critics of the Western European literary tradition, such as John Vernon, Marc Shell and Patrick Brantlinger present the claim that nineteenth-century narratives are about money and feature the commercial side of the characters’ social interactions within the nuclear family and with the opposite sex. By taking into consideration this new perception of reading fiction with the focus on the materialistic values of the narratives, I explore the applicability of this research to understanding the canonical works of nineteenth-century Russian literature and whether this approach would enhance the study of genre developments of the Russian prose-fiction in the aforementioned period. Therefore, the research questions for this dissertation are as follows: How does money appear in the stories of formative life-experiences for characters of nineteenth-century Russian classical literature? What is the relationship between the exchange of capital and the flow of gossip in these narratives? What are the gender and genre correlations and implications of these dynamics? And, how might studying these topics modify the traditional literary-historical understandings of the development of realism in nineteenth-century Russian literature? The current work also illuminates the literary treatment of the diminishing world of the Russian aristocracy and the rising importance of capital as compared to land. It explores large-scale socio-political changes during the period of study, and their influence on both the literary treatment of money, gossip and the creative process. This involves registering Russia’s intellectual or imaginary participation in the discourse of cultural and industrial revolutions that “progressive” Western States were experiencing, a discourse not actualized in Russia until decades later. I do not necessarily claim that fiction reflects every political development; nonetheless, I believe that one cannot ignore the dialectical relationship between fiction and reality. Overall, the goal of this project is to provide a new appreciation for selected works by prominent Russian writers who have contributed to the cultural phenomenon of the Great Russian Novel. To a semi-hypothetical question about what function money plays in the stories, the inspection of each story seemingly reveals an answer within the terms of the repeated model, which shows that money appears in the presented fiction as a catalyst for the plot developments, and as a stage of self-evolvement for the characters. In addition to the revealed pattern, the analysis also showed that gossip and money both share an ability to add to or to reduce the social value of an individual, which can be considered as a formative stage of becoming, for both the story and for the protagonist. Furthermore, although, it is believed money is a domain of men and gossip of women; the close reading reveals that the victims are women, but men are makers of both gossip and money. Overall, the final verdict for the function of money and gossip in the presented samples of Russian prose would be that the established nineteenth-century Russian literary tradition is a product of creative processes that were reflective of the cultural and popular events of Western Europe.
Issue Date:2015-05-08
Rights Information:© 2015, Natalya Khokholova University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-29
Date Deposited:August 201

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