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Title:Burning flames and seething brains: Passion, imagination, and madness in Karamzin, Pushkin, and Gogol
Author(s):McWilliams, Matthew David
Advisor(s):Kaganovsky, Lilya
Contributor(s):Cooper, David; Randolph, John
Department / Program:Russian,E European,Eurasn Ctr
Discipline:Russian, E Eur, Eurasian St
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Russian Literature
God Grant
Bronze Horseman
Queen of Spades
Nevsky Prospect
Nevskii Prospect
Diary of a Madman
St. Petersburg
Petersburg Text
Petersburg Tales
Abstract:My thesis begins with an overview of sensibility (chuvstvitel'nost') and passion (strast') in Russian Sentimentalism, with a focus on the prose fiction of Nikolai Karamzin. After describing the correlation between passion and madness (a commonplace of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century discourse) and the emergence of a positive Romantic model of madness (featured in the works of E.T.A. Hoffmann and Vladimir Odoevskii, among others), I go on to show that Aleksandr Pushkin and Nikolai Gogol—the most celebrated poet and prose writer of the Romantic era in Russia—both depict madness in a rather un-Romantic light. In the second chapter, I discuss Pushkin’s eclectic treatments of madness, identifying classic tropes of literary madness and several likely sources. I use peripeteia and anagnorisis (concepts from Aristotelian poetics) to address the intersection of madness and plot, and I examine Pushkin’s use of the fantastic in, and the influence of early French psychiatry on, his depictions of madness. The remainder of the text is devoted to three of Gogol’s Petersburg tales, linked by their mad protagonists and the influence of the Künstlerroman: “Nevskii Prospect,” “The Portrait,” and “Diary of a Madman.” I suggest that Piskarev’s story in “Nevskii Prospect” functions as a parody of Karamzin’s fiction, with which it shares a narratorial mode (Dorrit Cohn’s “consonant thought report”). I also maintain that poshlost' plays an important role in the story, and is itself connected to Sentimentalism and ‘sentimentality.’ Next, I outline three types of passion in “The Portrait”—divine, demonic, and petty—and argue that although Chartkov’s downfall has supernatural (satanic) origins, it is also a product of poshlost'. Rather than the either/or of the fantastic, I contend that in “The Portrait,” evil—and, by extension, madness—is both individual and social. Subsequently, I show that in both “Nevskii Prospect” and “The Portrait,” the passions are depicted in terms of physiognomy, which relates to Gogol’s (negative) treatment of balls, fashion, and comme il faut in the Petersburg haute monde. I begin my reading of “Diary of a Madman” by discussing the depiction of madness in texts with first-person character narrators (which do not allow for thought report) and the interpretive difficulties posed by Poprishchin’s radical narratorial unreliability. Taking seriously Robert Maguire’s suggestion that “we could very well … read Gogol’s [“Diary of a Madman”] as a case study,” I read “Diary” through a Freudian lens, tracing the progression of Poprishchin’s madness from hallucination and paranoia to schizophrenic megalomania (65). Ultimately, I argue that Gogol’s treatment of madness is a profoundly negative response to Hoffmann and Odoevskii. Unlike the mad artistic geniuses of the positive Romantic model—who experience creative inspiration and metaphysical insight—Gogol’s madmen are misled by the irrational (dreams, imagination, passions), and it is precisely the revelation of truth that drives them mad. I contend that deception is the basic feature of Gogolian poshlost' and Gogolian madness, both of which imply aesthetic, ethical, and spiritual deficiency.
Issue Date:2017-12-14
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Matthew McWilliams
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-03-13
Date Deposited:2017-12

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