Slot:       30C–1          Dec. 30, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.                                                

Title:       Леpмонтов: незаконченное, неизданное, недосказанное

Chair:     Gary Saul Morson, Northwestern University


Title:       Аpбенин без маски, или Жизнь поэта: Lermontov’s Unknown Tribute to Pushkin

Author:   Inna Caron, Ohio State University

An older husband, driven to madness by jealousy, despite all his brilliance. A younger wife, beautiful, trustful, and innocent, despite all the incriminating evidence. A carefree socialite, recklessly pursuing his passions. A ruthless intrigant on a vengeful mission. A heartless crowd, amused by the cruel game. A senseless murder in the endgame.

One significant difference between Masquerade’s Arbenin and his Shakespearean prototype is in the fact that this Nikolaevan Othello did not have any exotic blood running through his veins that could be used as a justification of his violent temper.  Or did he?

Using intertextual references, as well as biographical and epistolary data, I argue that the character of Evgenii Aleksandrovich Arbenin, apart from exemplifying the emerging literary genius of its creator, was also Lermontov’s attempt at a psychological portrait of his famous older contemporary, whom he glorified posthumously just a short while later.

Admitting that every Russian poet, beginning with Lermontov, could not escape objectifying at some point his or her phantomic reality of “my Pushkin,” I propose to take into consideration that before Death of a Poet (1837) there was Masquerade (1834-1836), in which Lermontov presented his very own, inherently dark, covertly demonic, and still living “slave of honor.”


Title:       The Lie That Tells the Truth: Lermontov’s Shtoss Between Text and Performance

Author:   David Powelstock, Brandeis University

In spring 1841 Lermontov announced that he would read his “new novel” Shtoss at an evening gathering.  He requested that only the core salon habitués be invited, asking that they arrive unusually early for a reading of at least four hours. On the appointed evening, when the select audience of about thirty had gathered, Lermontov entered with an enormous notebook, plunked it down on the table, and began to read.  After about fifteen minutes, he stopped, and that was it.  All but the first twenty pages of the notebook were blank.

The performance of Shtoss as a hoax, together with its uncharacteristically fantastic plot, has led some scholars to discount its significance.  However, as one of Lermontov’s last texts, it has tempted others to read a great deal into it.  Yet one can hardly agree with the conclusion voiced by prominent Soviet scholars that the story represents Lermontov’s conversion to the Natural School. In places, the story, despite its fantastic plot, describes Petersburg in the naturalistic terms of the fiziologicheskii ocherk. And one might see the plot as a pastiche of the Romantic fantastic. But why not consider the “naturalistic” parts as pastiche, also? 

I approach Shtoss as a hoax with a serious literary purpose. I examine the story’s significance by reciprocally superimposing the “unfinished” literary text itself and the “unfinished” behavioral text of its salon performance as dual manifestations of a single Lermontovian characteristic: his lifelong tendency toward provoking his audiences into rethinking their aesthetic and moral norms.  I readdress the story’s (and Lermontov’s) relation to the secondary interpretive question of the Romanticism-Naturalism-Realism debate, connecting the piece to contemporary literary historical processes, as Lermontov saw them. I conclude that Lermontov’s “practical joke” was indeed practical. It used naturalistic and fantastic devices allegorically, to make a statement about “literary interest” that was critical toward contemporary literary practices, but far from anti-Romantic.


Title:       Pechorin’s Last Journey: Literary Models and Historical Background

Author:   Ilya Vinitsky, University Of Pennsylvania

The present paper deals with a discussion of a “Persian motif” in Mikhail Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time (1839-1840). Why does Pechorin head to “Persia and further on” at the end of his life (“Maksim Maksimych”)? What does this “further on” imply? What was the cultural content of the concept “Persia” in Russian literature of the 1830s? Were there any real prototypes for the hero of our time’s last voyage?

To answer these questions I consider Pechorin’s last enterprise within competing Romantic models of the Occidental journey, within the historical and political situation of the late 1830s, as well as within contexts of real trips by Russian travelers to “Persia and further on” in the discussed period. I draw special attention to the figure of a 30-year old Russian officer and Romantic wanderer Ivan Viktorovich Vitkevich, whose adventurous life, melancholy letters, and mysterious death in 1839 represent an interesting parallel to Pechorin’s story. I argue that, to an extent, Pechorin not only acts, but also dies as the hero of his time.