lect 2-3 Gogol.doc

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St. Michael's College Courses

Gogol • Born 1809, outerskirts of Russia – Ukraine today • trilingual: russian,ukraine, polish. Plus french + german @ school ◦ taught in ukranian lit too – contended issue • grandfather lies about ancestry – becomes nobility • tries to become civil servant, gets bored and leaves st nd • tries to become lecturer, brilliant 1 lect on world hist, 2 on russian history: comes in with a "tooth ache", mumbles whole way through • writing increases social standing, and earns money st ◦ 1 trd books about Ukranian folklore ◦ 3 gothic book, French-influenced, emulated what is in fashion Russian authorship • searching for social standing ◦ writers respected in noble society • trying to find balance between teacher/preacher and professional that makes living through writing ◦ clash between teaching and financial motivation, of having to convince publishers and readers to buy ▪ everything bad in novel happens because of money, yet novel is written for money • many masterpieces written abroad • 12 years abroad ◦ convinced that he would be sick in St. Petersbourg ◦ hypochondriac ▪ convinced his stomach is upside down ▪ starved himself to death, convinced he could not eat • confessed to a priest, who affirmed that he is a great sinner, and encouraged him to starve himself to keep starving ◦ closet homosexual ▪ orientation clashes with his Christianity upbringing ◦ constant urge to travel • settles in Rome, not much known about these years • Dead Souls written not in Russia at all, written abroad Title • problematic • immediately censored ◦ church and state not separate ▪ official teaching: souls are eternal, cannot be dead • therefore title is heretical • first edition:Adventures of Chichikov or Dead Souls ◦ biggest font: "poem" – specifically a national epic ▪ the genre of the novel is still suspect, a low genre ▪ Gogol wants to the Russian Homer, Dante – lofty intent • pun: "soul" has several meanings ▪ legal meaning, simply a human being (includes women) ▪ economical meaning, landowners' male serfs (ex. 1000 souls = has 1000 men on farm) ◦ implied meaning by Gogol – the living landowners who have metaphysically speaking dead souls ▪ no inner life description, just superficial appearances ▪ Chichikov is the demon, collecting dead souls • has a chest filled with deeds, where not only the names of the serfs, but also the sellers, the landowners with dead souls Chichikov: The protagonist of the novel. The driving force of his story is his desire to obtain dead souls from slave owners in the region. His past and motivations for collecting dead souls remain a mystery for much of the novel. He is cordially greeted when he arrives in the town of N-- and impresses the residents there.Although at first he appears warm and honest to the reader as well, as the narrative goes on he appears to become more and more superficial. His name is derived from the Russian word for "sneeze." Selifan: Chichikov's carriage driver. He is portrayed as dimwitted and lazy and is also of a lower social standing than many of the other characters in the novel. Manilov: The first serf owner Chichikov visits. He is both nice and and welcoming to a fault, as well as being highly sentimental. His name means "to lure, attract, or beckon" in Russian. The Widow Korobochka: The second serf owner Chichikov visits. She is an old widow and very shrewd in her ways. She is hesitant to sell Chichikov the serfs because she is afraid dead souls actually sell for much more than what Chichikov is offering. Her name means "little box" in Russian. Nozdrev: The third serf owner. He is superficial and a dilettante, in addition to being incredibly two-faced. Gogol asserts that everyone knows someone who has similar characteristics as Nozdrev. Nozdrev is also the Russian word for "nostril." Sobakevich: The fourth serf owner. He is a quiet and resourceful man who tries to sell Chichikov dead souls the instant he thinks he can make a profit form him. Pliushkin: The fifth and final serf owner. Chichikov thinks he is a serf when he first sees him. He has a troubled past: his older daughter eloped with a soldier, his wife and younger daughter are dead, and his son, against Pliushkin's wishes, joined the military. His farm has fallen into disrepair and because of this Chichikov is able to buy a multitude of serfs from him. • Picaro novel ◦ series of segments, in which the picaro is the link ◦ his adventures are a kind of camera ◦ a kind of demonic character ▪ in european culture, it is believed only someone with supernatural powers should be able to integrate themselves so easily into all types of situations ▪ Chichikov is endowed with this ability ▪ even though novel is ostensibily realist • The lofty intent of the novel ◦ chpt 7, first pg, 2 paragraph ▪ poet in a chariot dealing only with higher matter ▪ vs the other one dealing with more mundane matter • proposing to make poetry out of garbage ◦ conceives a 3-pt piece ▪ based on Dante's pattern: Hell, Purgatory, Paradise ▪ but unconvincing purgatory ◦ national epic ◦ long sentences = poetry -> Gogol's idea ▪ longer sentences talk about loftier matters ▪ new way of defining poetry – the tone decides the mode, not the way the words are formatted • broke generic models, challenged conventions ◦ Henry James read other Russian novelists, but refused to read Gogol • nationality ▪ ex. two Russian magistra, very beginning • why emphasize Russian? No French or German magistra etc ▪ ex. russian driver, chapter 3 (drunk driving before finding the widow) • teases his reader • teaching Russians about Russia (readers = nobility, some educated class) ▪ ex. collision, chapter 5, Russians do not like to admit fault • characterizations of Russians ▪ ex. beginning, description of the hard Russian pillows in inns ▪ ex. encounter with a magistra asking for directions to Pluishkin ▪ ex. last paragraph of chapt 5 ◦ specific emphasis on russian-ness, and often explanations are provided for everyday russian terms • explanation 1: lived too long abroad • explanation 2: audience is foreign to novels, novels are foreign to russian culture ◦ grafting a foreign form to Russian soil ◦ as if from a foreigner's view ◦ teaching readers about Russia ◦ creating a Russian character, defining national ID ◦ V.S. Dickens' novels – assumption that the characters are English, that other nationalities are different ◦ Russia had no literary language ▪ exaceberates the problem of Gogol trying to create lofty material in a low genre ▪ has to convince readerst these words are not bad, not low ▪ ex. patched...(...= ass) – readers fill in something worse than ass ▪ digressions about the way women talk ▪ chpt 7 – rant about Russians not being able to use Russian properly; getting aggressive, playful slaps on the reader's face • "you sinners repent" Chichikov • readers realize he is "demonic" at the onset of the first transaction • when he became a millionaire, he quarreled with his partner ◦ this is a pattern – things build and build and build, then fall apart ▪ echoed in Gogol's sentence structure The two parts • part 1: Chichikov visiting landlords to buy nothing ◦ focuses on value and valuation • part 2: Chichikov back in town ◦ focuses on meaning and interpretation ▪ speculation, gossip Format • Don Quixote • Henry Fieldings, Warren Stern • picaros/travel log • long digressions • abrupt stops • dialogue with the reader from the narrator, who becomes one of the characters ◦ learns more and more about narrator through the course of the book ◦ tries to show readers that you are not part of the world created, you do not know someone like Chichikov ▪ cannot insult the readers – if a noble is offended, Gogol could be banned ▪ therefore Gogol is risking a lot challenging his readers – hence the playfulness in the rants, to avoid tension ▪ ''writing is a privilege, not a right" – said around the time Gogol began to write • enjoys making words ◦ as readers, should enjoy process of making sense of all the words • digressi
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