Jungian Longings in Turgenev's "Pevcy"

John M. Mohan, Grinnell College

This paper will explore the many ways in which Turgenev's 1850 story anticipates Carl Jung's theories of artistic creativity as outlined in the 1922 essay, "On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry." (Carl Jung, The Spirit in Man, Art, and Literature, Princeton University Press, 1966.) The principal link between the story and the essay can be found in the contrast between the two singers--"rjadchik" and Jakov--and Jung's division of artists into those who consciously control their art and those who are controlled by their art. The first category of artists excel in technique, while the latter may initially appear to be timid and uncertain in execution--until that moment when art overcomes them and they become the mediums for, in Jung's words, "the sphere of unconscious mythology whose primordial images are the common heritage of humanity." The perfectly performed song of the "rjadchik" satisfies the superficial entertainment needs of the tavern patrons. On the other hand, Jakov's song, at first "faint and uneven," ultimately transcends and unites the separateness of the strongly individuated and socially stratified characters in attendance--everyone from the gentry narrator to the "coarse, ignorant little peasant" from another village, heretofore ignored by the "inner circle" of the tavern's frequent visitors. In Jung's terms, Jakov "transmutes our personal destiny into the destiny of humanity, and evokes in us all those beneficent forces that ever and anon have enabled humanity to find a refuge from every peril and to outlive the longest night." My proposed paper will use numerous textual details to shore up this Jungian reading of "Pevcy," and it will demonstrate as well the transience of epiphany in the world of Russian serfdom, with its many perils and long, long nights.