By Robert Maguire

For the previous one hundred fifty years, critics have pointed out 'the Gogol problem', wherein they suggest their lack of ability to account for a lifestyles and paintings which are confusing, usually opaque, but have proved continually interesting to generations of readers. This ebook proceeds at the assumption that Gogol's lifestyles and paintings, in all their manifestations, shape an entire; it identifies, in ways in which have eluded critics to this point, the rhetorical innovations and thematic styles that create the solidarity. those better matters emerge from an in depth examine of the main texts, fictional and nonfictional, and in flip are set in a extensive inventive and highbrow context, Russian and eu, with detailed realization to German philosophy, the visible arts, and Orthodox Christian theology.

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Even so, there is an important qualification: "Into mid-Dnieper they dare not look; none but the sun and the blue sky gaze into it" (160). " No mention is made of hills, mountains, or meadows; they are no longer incorporated into the "center"; in the intervening chapters, these boundaries have become transitional places and are therefore potentially dangerous. Retrospectively, we see that something is amiss in the earlier Dnieper scene as well. The negatives in the passage we have quoted do not define the distinction between place and non-place, as in chapter 1, but dislocate boundaries and thereby eradicate an essential distinction in the image system of the story.

Gogol has intrigued and baffled critics ever since the 1830's, when his first works began to appear. I am well aware of the enormous weight of commentary that has accumulated since then. " Having fallen off steeply under Stalinism, criticism in what was then the Soviet Union began to revive about twenty years ago; and it is Gogol who has been attracting some of the most subtle and powerful readers, like Sergei Bocharov, Yury Lotman, and Yury Mann. Understandably, foreign critics discovered Gogol much later than did the Russians, really only in the past half century.

Even The Inspector General and Dead Souls await microsurgery, although Yury Mann, among others, has been pointing the way in brilliant and stimulating studies. The sizable body of nonfiction has so far remained largely closed to this kind of reading, but promising beginnings have been made by imaginative critics -x- like William Mills Todd, in his essay on the letters. For other scholarly writings on Gogol, in several languages, readers may consult the exhaustive bibliography compiled by Philip Frantz, which covers works published through 1988.

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