Non-Devices in a Non-Novel: The Case of Goncharov's An Ordinary Story

This paper examines the "non-devices" of a novel where essentially little happens.

The thesis of this paper is that the literary devices in many nineteenth century Russian novels are essentially "non-devices," that they are literary conventions which do not happen. Using Goncharov's An Ordinary Story for its examples, this paper will identify some of these conventions: the non-device, zero-devices (a term coined by Lotman), the anti-romanticism, fore-, side-, and back-shadowings (terms coined by Morson and Bernstein), metaphors without referents, metaphoric shifts, and the presentation of the unrealistic realistically, i.e. musical performance described in words. The conclusions will suggest that what has been called the "superfluous man" is essentially a "non-character" in a world of non-events, that through non-devices it is possible to penetrate to the author behind the narrator, and that the non-devices serve as cues for the reader to participate in the author's creative act.