In the Beginning Was … the Book: Aleksandr Pushkin and the Sentimental Tale

By Rimma Garn.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Aleksandr Pushkin, often considered the father of modern Russian literature, in his first significant prose work, a collection of stories entitled “Tales of the Late Ivan Petrovich Belkin,” conducted an ironic dialogue with the sentimental stories of his predecessor Nikolai Karamzin. Karamzin’s two most famous stories, “Poor Liza” and “Natalya, the Boyar’s Daughter,” both feature authoritative sentimental narrators and respectful, if not subservient, admiration for genre conventions—in these two stories those of idylls and patriotic tales of courage. Pushkin, in “The Tales of Belkin,” subverts and ironizes the solemnity and straightforward authority of his predecessor by thwarting the readers’ expectations, substituting texts/subtexts and turning the narratives inside out, all the while inserting direct references to Karamzin’s stories into his own narratives. Pushkin’s characters are shaped by the books they read, and since the books they read are Karamzin’s, he satirizes the effect of sentimentalism on contemporary Russian society.

Keywords: Russian Literature, Pushkin, Karamzin, Satire, Parody

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp.125-136. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 792.202KB).

Dr. Rimma Garn

Assistant Professor / Lecturer, Department of Languages and Literature, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, USA

Dr. Rimma Garn has a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and presently teaches at the University of Utah. Her literary research focuses on the rise of the Russian novel and on the role of imitation and parody in literary evolution; she is also working on East European cinema and culture. Her most recent publication, in “Objects of Inquiry and Exchange: Eighteenth-Century Thing Theory in a Global Context” applies “thing theory” to books and their fate in eighteenth-century Russia and Russian literature. The monograph she is currently working on traces parody and intertextuality in Russian literature from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century.

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