RUSS 3305/MLIT 3340 Dr. Holl
The historical context of Fathers and Sons
Russia's population, at the time when Turgenev wrote, was about 74 million.
Of these 74 million people, over 50 million were privately owned serfs or "state peasants," and over 90 percent of the population lived in the countryside.
The "Gentry," consisting of the old aristocracy and the new aristocracy (or "meritocracy") whose members had gained Gentry status since the time of Peter the great, represented, therefore, a small minority of the population.
Before 1861 this minority was distinguished, above all, by the right to own serfs.
The Gentry, for the most part, included small and large property owners, and government bureaucrats.
The Gentry also included a small group that came to be known as the intelligentsia (which term was given by Russia to other languages and cultures).
The intellegentsia can be defined loosely by a number of characteristics, many of which are stated succinctly by the historian Abbott Gleason in his book Young Russia:
"Social-political idealism," manifested by an interest in such concepts as "freedom, equality, democracy, and socialism."
In Russia, this meant opposition to the autocracy, opposition to serfdom before 1861, and a continued desire to help "the people" after 1861.
The "process of secularization" in the modern world, so that members of the intelligentsia performed some functions that earlier had been fulfilled by the clergy.
The critique of western civilization.
An interest in theoretical and philisophical issues which sometimes were not closely connected to the real social problems they purported to address.
Hence the intelligentsia tended to be isolated both from the autocracy, which it criticized, and the masses of the people.
The desire to return society to some primitive lost "harmonious 'wholeness'" which had become fragmented in the modern era.
With respect to Turgenev, we are interested in two sub-sets of the intellegentsia: the "men of the 'forties" and the "men of the 'sixties."
The "Men of the 'forties" were liberals, at least with respect to the following generation, who opposed serfdom but believed in more or less gradual change within the existing Russian political framework.
Turgenev essentially fits this definition. He did not want to give up the wealth and privelege of his status, but he did oppose serfdom, he freed his own serfs before the liberation, and he was arrested, as we shall see in a moment, for expressing too liberal views in print.
The "Men of the 'sixties" were radicals by comparison with the preceding generation.
They tended to believe that change could not be affected by "evolution," but rather by "revolution."
It was this generation that produced the forebears of the October revolution of 1917.
5. The Nihilists
- Here, we are interested in one particular movement within the "Men of the 'sixties" -- the "Nihilists."
- Nihilism is the term Bazarov himself uses in Fathers and Sons to describe his philosophy, and it was Turgenev's novel which first gave the term currency.
- By the 1870s it had come to be a pejorative term used by conservatives to mean any radical or revolutionary (cf "hippy" or "Generation X"
- In the original meaning of the term, "Nihilism" was exemplified by the radical (but not revolutionary) literary critic Dmitrii Pisarev (1840-1868).
- "Nihilism," as defined by, among others, the above-mentioned Abbott Gleason, and by the historian of philosophy Andrzej Walicki in his book A History of Russian Thought from the Enlightenment to Marxism, can be defined by the following properties:
- A belief in the individual
- An absence of the belief, popularized by other schools, that the simplicity and native communalism of the Russian peasant could provide salvation for Russia and indeed the west.
- An opposition to art and culture for its own sake, sometimes expressed in open hostility toward Pushkin.
- A corresponding worship of the natural sciences and a belief that all of life's problems could be solved through rational means.
- A refusal to accept a priori any traditional authority, such as the state, the church, and the family. This is the origin of the term "nihilism," which would later be misrepresented as a belief in absolutely nothing.
- A difficult-to-define nihilist "style," as personified by Bazarov, which underscored the Nihilists' rejection of authority.
- We will read the book on (at least) two levels: as a dramatization of the conflict between the men of the 'forties and the men of the 'sixties and representation of Nihilist philosophy with its good and bad points; and a human drama, universal in its appeal, which happens to take place within the framework of mid nineteenth century Russian politics.
3. Turgenev (Biography)
Turgenev was born Oct. 31, 1818 (o. s.) in Orël Province
He was raised on a huge estate in Orël province, in central Russia -- the same region that produced, among others, Lermontov and Tolstoi
Turgenev's father, Sergei Nikolaevich Turgenev, was from an ancient aristocratic famly
The name Turgenev is met with frequently throughout Russian history
Turgenev’s father was usually aloof from Turgenev, and died young, in 1834, when Turgenev was 16.
His mother, Varvara Petrovna née Lutovinova, was from a wealthy but less ancient family
The family owned a vast estate of five thousand serfs and thirty villages
Turgenev's mother, as he later testified in his correspondence, was continuously physically abusive throughout his childhood, to the serfs and to him
He had a "Conventional aristocratic education of governesses, tutors and boarding school" (Handbook of Russian Literature 488)
He was well-read and became interested in literature early on
He entered Moscow University in 1833
When his family moved to St. Petersburg, he transfered to St. Petersburg University in 1834; he took a degree in 1837 from the Philology department
Re: Turgenev's study of "philology," it should be noted that he was an excellent student of languages, spoke and wrote French like a native, spoke and wrote Germman, learned Spanish and even spoke of translating Don Quixote.
Russian universities still were not comparable in quality to their western European counterparts, and Turgenev, like many of his educated peers, felt the need to continue his education abroad.
In 1838 Turgenev went to western Europe, where he would eventually meet and becomes friends with Russian intellectuals such as Bakunin, Stankevich and, in 1843, Vissarion Belinskii.
As his boat was arriving in Germany a fire broke out
Throughout his life Turgenev angrily denied the rumor that he behaved dishonorably, panicking and saving himself before the women and children were safe
In 1841, back on his estate, he has an affair with a serf, Avdotia Ermolaevna Ivanova
His daughter, Pelageiia, later known as Paulinette, married name Bruere, was born April 1842
His letters indicate that he knew of her existence but he "forgot" her for several years
Eventually he "rediscoved her" and sent to western Europe to be educated by woman named Pauline Viardot
Turgenev met Pauline Viardot, maiden name was García and who was a native of Spain, in 1843
Pauline Viardot was a world-renouned opera star, a married woman, with whom (and with whose family) Turgenev had a life-long relationship
Turgenev was even close to her husband, Louis Viardot, a noted scholar and translator of Spanish literature
The nature of Turgenev's relaitionship was unclear and has been the subject of a great deal of speculation by biographers.
In 1852 Turgenev wrote a short commemorative article upon the death of Gogol, published a collection of short-stories called A Sportsman's Sketches (there are other translations of the title).
In 1852 Turgenev was arrested, ostensibly because of the Gogol' article (it was illegal to mention Gogol in print), perhaps because of the implicit criticism of serfdom in the Sketches.
Turgenev spent a month in jail and was then confined to his estate for over a year.
In the next 8 years Turgenev wrote three novels which would establish his literary reputation: Rudin (1856), A Nest of Gentlefolk (1859), and On The Eve (1860); he is the first great Russian writer to sustain the tradition of the novel
His next novel, Fathers and Children (Often mistranslated as Fathers and Sons including in the translation we are reading) (1862), now regarded as his best, caused his reputation to plummet, the right and the left both taking offense at the portrait of the nihilist Bazarov.
Turgenev then moved more or less permanently to Western Europe (Baden-Baden, then Paris), where he had always spent a great deal of time.
His last two novels -- Smoke (1867) (about the revolutionary movement) and Virgin Soil (1870) (about the populists), are considered a "Falling off" (Handbook 489).
Turgenev died of cancer on Sept. 3, 1883, in France.
RUSS 3305/ML&L 3340 Dr.
Bruce Holl Trinity University
Dostoevsky, Fedor Mikhailovich (1821-1881)
Fedor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky was born on Oct. 30 (os), 1821, in a Moscow hospital for the poor where his father was the head physician.
His brother Mikhail, his friend and collaborator until Mikhail's death in 1864, had been born in 1820.
Dostoevsky's father was a member of the Lithuanian inherited nobility who eventually gained status as a Russian noble
His mother (née Nechaeva) was a member of a Moscow merchant family
Dostoevsky's father was an army surgeon who served in the Napoleonic wars before assuming the post at the hospital where Dostoevsky was born
Dostoevsky's family were pious Russian Orthodox believers, going on annual pilgrimages to a Monastery
Dostoevsky's father is typically portrayed as occasionally alcoholic and abusive; his relationship with his son has given rise to Freudian-biographical criticism including a famous article by Freud entitled "Dostoevsky and Parricide"
This all may or may not be accurate
According to legend, Dostoevsky's father was murdered by his serfs in 1839
Dostoevsky was said to have suffered his first epileptic seizure at that time
Freud concluded that the Oedipal complex, and guilt related to it, caused the attack
Recent biographical scholarship suggests that Dostoevsky's father may actually have suffered a stroke or heart attack while arguing with 4 peasants during an afternoon of intense heat
As teenagers Dostoevsky and his brother attended boarding schools
Dostoevsky received an excellent secondary education
In 1838 Dostoevsky enrolled in the Petersburg Engineering Institute (a military academy); his brother because of poor health could not do so and eventually entered the university in Roval (now Tallin) Estonia; their separation gave rise to a rich correspondence.
Dostoevsky disliked school; in the meantime, his interest in literature grew
Reminiscences of this period already describe Dostoevsky as eccentric and morose.
In 1843 he passed his Engineering Corps exams and began work as a draughtsman
He made some money from his job and estate in this period but wasted it, probably by gambling.
Literature at this time became the central focus of his life
Also at this time, but probably not related to the death of his father, he began experiencing his "fits," i. e., epileptic seizures.
In 1844 he published his first work, a short epistolary novel called Poor Folk.
Like Gogol's famous short story of the same period, "The Overcoat," Poor Folk is the story of a poor man who lives in St. Petersburg and holds a low-ranking bureaucratic job
This is Dostoevsky's only work of explicit social criticism (in the way that the social critics defined that term), although it is also much more than that.
Vissarion Belinsky, the preeminent social critic mentioned earlier in the course (and to whom Turgenev would later dedicate Fathers and Sons), read Poor Folk solely as a work of social criticism and praised the novel; Dostoevsky thus became instantly famous as a writer -- and instantly, by some accounts, insufferable.
In the next four years Dostoevsky published number of shorter works including The Double (1846) and "White Nights" (1848).
These works were not praised so highly by Belinskii and Dostoevsky's reputation suffered somewhat.
Also at this time, Dostoevsky became associated with a radical group known as the "Petrashevtsy" or "Petrashevsky circle." There is controversy as to whether, or to what extent, Dostoevsky embraced the radical political philosophy of the group, and it seems unlikely that he accepted its atheism, but he was none the less a member of a radical splinter group within the organization that even attained a printing press for the purposes of disseminating propaganda.
At one of the group's meetings he read aloud Belinskii's banned "Letter to Gogol," in which the critic attacks Gogol for "abandoning" political radicalism.
Dostoevsky was arrested on April 22, 1849 (at the height of the worst, post-1848 period of Nicholas I's reign), interrogated, and condemned to death.
He was taken out to a parade ground to be shot; the reprieve was deliberately sent only at the very last second. The experience obviously scarred Dostoevsky and is recounted chillingly in The Idiot. There is also a fair amount of passing commentary in Crime and Punishment on executions, reprieves, and the final thoughts of a condemned prisoner.
The mock execution became a standard preface to Siberian exile and later prisoners always knew that the sentence would be reprieved, but Dostoevsky apparently did not know.
Dostoevsky was condemned to four years' hard labor in the Omsk prison camp, to be followed by four years' service as a non-commissioned officer in the Russian army, still in Siberia. Only in 1859 under the more lenient government of Alexander II was he permitted to return first to Tver, and then to St. Petersburg.
Dostoevsky's mental and physical health, always suspect, were permanently affected by prison.
Dostoevsky describes his experiences in the semi-autobiographical Notes From the House of the Dead, ostensibly the story of one Goriachnikov but actually based upon people Dostoevsky knew and events he witnessed.
Notes represents the needless cruelty of the prison system and the horrible personal experience of incarceration, as well as the instinctive hatred of the gentry by the peasants, which forever affected Dostoevsky's attitude toward the latter.
Having returned from Siberia, Dostoevsky now entered (incredibly) what was actually to be the most difficult period of his life (esp. his personal life), the 1850s and early 1860s.
He had an affair with and then married Maria Dmitrievna Konstant Isaeva, wife and then widow of one of his close friends.
His epilepsy worsened in this period, sometimes incapacitating him for days at a time and more frequently than before.
His wife suffered from tuberculosis and mental illness
He had to support his wife's dependents, notably her son who would cause Dostoevsky a fair amount of grief.
In the years 1861-1863 he and his brother edited and published a journal, Vremia (Time)
It became one of Russia's most popular "thick journals," with a (relatively large) circulation of 4,000 by April 1863
In April, 1863 the journal was closed by the censors.
It was closed mistakenly because someone in the censor's office wrongly assumed that one article in the journal was in favor of the Polish uprising of 1863.
In 1864 the brothers received permission to publish another journal, Epokha (The Epoch) but their readership had been lost, the journal was never a success and it collapsed when Mikhail died.
The decision even to try to publish a new journal was, in retrospect, a mistake, and Dostoevsky as a result incurred large debts.
Meanwhile, Dostoevsky's wife died in April and his brother in July of 1864
He was thus deprived of the two people closest to him, and simultaneously acquired the sole burden of supporting all of their dependents, just at the time when he was faced with debts from the failure of the journal
He continued in this period to write, thereby to make a meager living, and to acquire more debts
In 1864, at the age of 43, in the face of these crushing difficulties, Dostoevsky wrote Notes From The Underground¬
That he could write at all, let alone produce a great classic, is a testament to his strong will and his ability to survive hardships.
In 1865 he proposed marriage to a wealthy widow, Korvin-Krukovskaia, but was turned down
He had next an affair with a woman named Apollinaria Suslova which lasted throughout his time in western Europe and was a mutually tormenting relationship
His personal and financial problems in this period were worsened by periodic gambling in the casinos of Western Europe
The typical contention that he was a "pathological gambler," whatever that means, are, however, problematic.
Both the affair and the phenomenon of gambling provide motifs for The Gambler, although the novel is not autobiography and should not be read as such (although many critics have)
On October 4, 1866 Dostoevsky hired a stenographer, Anna Grigorievna Snitkina, to meet a publisher's Nov. 6 deadline for The Gambler.
He had agreed to sign away the rights to all his works if he could not meet the deadline.
He dictated the novel to her; in the course of the dictation, they fell in love, and married in Feb. 1867
He did meet the deadline, in the end obtaining a police seal on the manuscript to prove when it was completed since unscrupulous the publisher absented himself on the due-date.
Snitkina helped him set his life straight, served as his secretary and general assistant in literary work, managed his finances, may have helped him quit gambling.
The couple had four children: Sofia (b. 1868, lived only a week or two; Liubov' (1869-1926); Fèdor (1871-1921); and Aleksei (1875-1878)
Dostoevsky was crushed by the death of his first child, which he describes in his correspondence of the time.
Dostoevsky and his family lived in western Europe from spring 1867-summer 1871, in part to escape debts and financial burdens.
Dostoevsky entered the most productive period of his life, when the four great novels were written -- all dealing with the theme of murder.
Crime and Punishment (1866)
The Idiot, 1868
The Demons (or sometimes The Possessed), 1872
The Brothers Karamazov, 1880
After 1871 the Dostoevskys lived in Petersburg but sometimes in the summer would go to a German spa while his wife and children would go to a dacha near Novgorod which they had bought.
Dostoevsky suffered from emphysema aggravated by smoking, and died from a hemorrhage of the throat on January 29, 1881.
RUSS 3305/ML&L 3340 Dr. Holl
- Born Oct. 2 or 3, 1814
- His mother was a member of the wealthy Stolypin family
- His father was a retired army officer and estate owner, of lower social rank and, according to legend, of Scottish origin, alleged bon vivant .
- They lived on his mother's estate.
- Lermontov's mother died in 1817 at age 22 when the poet was three.
- There ensued a custody fight between father and grandmother, which the grandmother won
- Lermontov was well-educated at home by his grandmother
- He suffered serious childhood illnesses and suffered emotionally from the conflict of his father and grandmother
- In his youth he visited the Caucasus three times.
- In 1827 (age 13) he moved to Moscow with his grandmother to enter the preparatory school for Moscow University
- In this period he spent two years at the school, began his literary activity, and in 1830 (at age 16) made his first appearance in print.
- With the aid of an English tutor he learned English and read Byron in the original
- In 1830 he entered the University.
- In 1831 His father died
- In 1832 he left Moscow U. hoping to enroll in Petersburg but his two years were not accepted for transfer credit so he enrolled in the Guards' School (a military institute).
- He was commissioned an officer in the Life Gaurd Hussars in Nov. 1834
- Stationed in Petersburg, he explored society, unsuccessfully trying to advance his reputation
- He continued his literary activities as well
- On learning of Pushkin's death in January, 1837, he wrote a poem called "The Death of the Poet," which was circulated in manuscript and gained Lermontov a literary reputation. The poem included a sixteen line addendum which was interpreted as a call to revolution
- The poem also caused Lermontov to be arrested
- In Feb. he was assigned to a unit engaged in active fighting in the Caucasus
- Among his Caucasian adventures on the way to meeting his regiment was an encounter with smugglers, which episode shows up in A Hero of Our Time.
- He never met his regiment, and was again sent to Petersburg
- There he resumed his literary activities
- In 1840, possibly because of participation in a secret literary society, he was again ordered from the capital
- The nominal pretext was his duel with the son of the French ambassador (though no-one was hurt)
- He was transferred, again, to a line unit in the Caucasus which was in imminent danger of destruction
- Lermontov distinguished himself in battle, although he was denied the commendations for which he was repeatedly recommended
- Returning to his unit from leave, Lermontov visited the resort of Piatigorsk
- There he got himself put on the sick-list and stayed for some time, engaged in the social activities of the resort
- He met up with his old school mate, one N. S. Martynov; Lermontov found Martynov, with his affected manners, vanity and local native clothing, ridiculous; he lampooned Martynov
- Martynov ultimately challenged Lermontov to a duel; it took place - and
- Lermontov was killed - on July 15, 1841.
3. Lermontov's writing
- Lermontov began writing early
- He was primarily a poet but he began to write more prose toward the end of his career
- He wrote a great deal of "juvenilia," poetry of less value in comparison with the rest of his work
- He also wrote a large body of "mature" poetry (he was 26 when he died) which was immensely popular and has been influential on subsequent writers, e. g., Pasternak, who dedicated My Sister Life (his autobiography) to Lermontov and always spoke of him as a profound influence.
- Lermontov is considered the foremost Russian "Romantic" writer
- A Hero of Our Time began to appear serially in 1839 in Notes of the Fatherland, a "thick journal," and appeared in book form in 1840
- Vissarion Belinskii (1811-1848), the greatest Russian literary critic of the time, reviewed it favorably, but others panned it, viewing it as autobiography or a celebration of Pechorin's immorality
- The second edition, including the “Author's Preface” (which you should read if you haven't), appeared in 1841
- A Hero of Our Time is often listed as the first "realist" or "psychological" novel; the American critic John Mersereau calls it "the first modern novel of psychological realism in Russian literature" (76-7).