Slot:       30C–2          Dec. 30, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.                                                

Panel:     Modernist Texts in Dialog

Chair:     Malynne Sternstein, University of Chicago


Title:       Of Animals, Humans, Islands, and States: Zamiatin's Reading, and Creative Misreading, of H. G. Wells

Author:   Sara Stefani, Yale University

The fact that the writings of H. G. Wells serve as a central subtext for Evgenii Zamiatin’s dystopian novel We has been explored in a number of essays and is well known. However, investigators looking for the origins of We in Wells have focused primarily on works such as When the Sleeper Wakes or A Modern Utopia, i.e., works emphasizing futuristic utopian visions and scientific and technological advancements, while one possible source for We that has so far gone overlooked is Wells’s scientific romance The Island of Dr. Moreau.

The goal of this paper is to show the importance of the subtext of The Island of Dr. Moreau not just for We, but for the body of Zamiatin’s work and the evolution of his thinking. Throughout his writing, Zamiatin uses the metaphor of animals and animalistic behavior in order to explore what it means to be human. Bernard Bergonzi has called The Island of Dr. Moreau a “deeply pessimistic book” expressing a “Swiftian view of human nature” (112), and Mark Hillegas has stated that Wells’s book is “a parable of the cruelty, savagery, and arbitrariness of the cosmic process as it has created man and determined his nature” (36). In his work before We, it would seem that Zamiatin internalized this interpretation, and the animalistic behavior of his characters points to their lack of humanity. However, as Roger Cockrell notes, Zamiatin tended to read his British forerunner “refracted through the prism of [his] own ideology” (85) – i.e., to creatively misread Wells. This is evident in his 1922 essay entitled Gerbert Uèlls, where Zamiatin sees in The Island of Dr. Moreau an expression of Wells’s deep humanism.

In this paper, I will examine Zamiatin’s reading and creative misreading of The Island of Dr. Moreau and the function of animalism and humanism in Zamiatin’s work, which coincides with his conception of the primitive. Although I will discuss these themes in relation to We, I will also place them in the context of some of Zamiatin’s less well-known works, such as “The Middle of Nowhere,” “Alatyr’,” and “Eyes,” thereby focusing attention on other areas of his oeuvre.



Bergonzi, Bernard. The Early H. G. Wells: A Study of the Scientific Romances. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1961.

Cockrell, Roger. “Future Perfect: H. G. Wells and Bolshevik Russia, 1917–32.” The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe. Eds. Patrick Parrinder and John S. Partington. London: Thoemmes Continuum, 2005. 74-90.

Hillegas, Mark R. The Future as Nightmare: H. G. Wells and the Anti-utopians. New York: Oxford UP, 1967.


Title:       Parody and Imitation in Olesha’s Envy

Author:   Yelena Zotova, University of Illinois, Chicago

In Yury Olesha's Envy the caustic aesthete and drunkard Nikolai Kavalerov (allegedly, the author's alter-ego) finds himself in a precarious position. On the one hand, he wages a war of art against philistines; on the other hand, these philistines now rule the new Soviet world, wherein their unsuspecting allies, the Futurists, have labeled traditional art philistine. Before proceeding with his Don Quixote mission, Kavalerov must reexamine his own aesthetic values and readjust his literary style. His tools in this search are parody and imitation. 
Applying Gary Saul Morson's theory of parody, this paper shows how the alternating use of parody and imitation reflects Olesha’s search for an aesthetic platform in Envy and how the aesthetic correlates with the ideological. Considering parody and imitation as two instances of a “double-voiced word” (in Morson’s rather than a Bakhtinian sense), the essay explores what happens to the second, evaluating, voice as the novel progresses. Does this voice successfully assert its authority over the first one? Does it give in and merge with the first voice, as in Bakhtin’s understanding of imitation, or does it, perhaps, turn on itself?



Bakhtin, M. Problemy Poetiki Dostoevskogo. Moscow, 1972.

Belinkov, A. Sdacha i Gibel′ Sovetskogo Intelligenta. Moscow, 1997.

Epstein, M. After the Future. Amherst, 1995.

Girard, R. Deceipt, Desire, and the Novel. Baltimore, London, 1965.

Khlebnikov, V. "Utes iz Budushchego" in Khlebnikov, V. Sobranie Sochinenii v Trekh Tomakh. St. Petersburg, 2001.

Markov, V. Russian Futurism. Berkeley, CA, Los Angeles, 1968.

Morson, G. The Boundaries of a Genre. Evanston, IL 1988.

Olesha, Iu. Zavist’ in Olesha Iu. Izbrannye Sochineniia. – Moscow, 1974.

--. “Speech to First Congress to Soviet Writers” in Envy and Other Works byYurii Olesha. New York, 1981.

Peppard, V. Poetics of Yurii Olesha. Florida, 1989.

Rose, M. Parody: Ancient, Modern, and Postmodern. Cambridge, 1993.

Sovetskaia Literaturnaia Parodiia. – ed. by Sarnov, B. Moscow, 1988.

Tucker, J. Against the Grain: Parody, Satire, and Intertextuality in Russian Literature. Bloomington, 2002.

--. Revolution Betrayed. Columbus, OH, 1996.

Tynianov, Iu. “O Parodii” in Tynianov, Iu. Poetika. Istoriia Literatury. Kino. Moscow, 1977.


Title:       Nabokov and Damaged Time: Parodied Modernist Poetics in Lolita and Ada

Author:   Marijeta Bozovic, Columbia University

The amorous male narrator/protagonists of Nabokov’s Lolita and Ada both seem to have complex and damaged relationships to, or philosophies of, Time.  In both texts, the eponymous beloved takes on temporal significance: Lolita, the nymphet, is a symbol of time stopped.  Ada, for Van, ideally exists in a conflation of all her desirable ages.

The cinema offers powerful metaphors for both projects.  Thus, Humbert exclaims: “Idiot, triple idiot!  I could have filmed her!… I could have had all her strokes, all her enchantments, immortalized in segments of celluloid” (Lolita 231-2).  Van, on the other hand, recognizes the magic of an on-screen Ada as a palimpsest: “In the magic rays of the camera, in the controlled delirium of ballerina grace, ten years of her life had glanced off…By some stroke of art, by some enchantment of chance, the few brief scenes she was given formed a perfect compendium of her 1884 and 1888 and 1892 looks” (Ada 488-9).

This enchanted collage is an illustration of Van’s concept of time: his is an accessible past that can be zipped back to, re-experienced, and complexly enjoyed all simultaneously with the present.  If Humbert’s sickness is that he cannot accept the passage of time, Van’s Time is shamelessly Bergsonian, if reductively so.  (In the fourth book of Ada, professor Van lectures on “Veen’s Time,” dropping planted allusions to Bergson’s Time and Free Will.)

But what is even more curious is how both protagonists cast their love/philosophy of time in explicitly modernist poetic terms.  What is Nabokov up to?  Why the explicit cultural and philosophic references?  What kind of modernist poets do Humbert and Van respectively parody?  Could we call Humbert’s quasi-mystical search to break out of time essentially Symbolist?  And are Van’s palimpsests, in turn, something of an Acmeist heresy?