Gogol''s Self-Canonization: Between the Two Taras Bul'bas

Saera Yoon, Indiana University

As Judith Kornblatt as well as other scholars noted, Gogol''s Taras Bul'ba made an indelible contribution to the cultural myth of Cossacks in Russian literature. Yet this claim is relevant only to the second redaction published in 1842. Contrary to the general dismissal of the first edition (1835) for its unpolished quality, the comparison of the two versions provides an insight into the author's drastically altered agenda. The first redaction is by all means a proper constituent of Mirgorod, whose title itself pays tribute to the author's nostalgic imagination of his native land, or as F.C. Driessen puts it, "Ukrainian world, the home of all his dreams." In Mirgorod, Cossacks are Ukrainians dwelling in the folkloristic frame in the disguise of historical novel. The second version, on the other hand, pushes russified Cossacks into the forefront and thereby attempts to canonize the author himself as a patriotic defender/promoter of Russian values, namely Russian faith, land, and tsar, that unmistakably echo Uvarov's three sacred doctrines (Orthodoxy, nationality, and autocracy). In this respect, I oppose Wasyl Sirskyj's argument downplaying the russification in the second redaction. The modification thoroughly transforms a Ukrainian tale into a Russian epic. In analyzing crucial modifications, I will touch upon the significantly different treatment of the theme of violence/revenge, the "rehabilitation" of the traitor (Andrij), and the Catholic sympathy. Concerning this last point, I will develop Igor' Vinogradov's discussion. In doing so, I will trace the ressentiments vis-à-vis Russia (in the case of the first version) and Western Europe (later in the second edition). These shape the mythic image of medieval knights as well as Gogol''s own image as a poet who envisions the supremacy of Russia.