Language, Gender and the Dream in «Evgenii Onegin»

 Luc Beaudoin


Tat´iana’s dream in Evgenii Onegin is an enigma. Occupying a central place in Pushkin’s novel in verse, it shares the role of novelistic artifact with the protagonists’ letters and its folk song. Dreams, in particular, hold sway as indicators of special insights, as they have for millenia, and liter­ary dreams in particular make tempting targets for interpretation.[1] In Slavistics, Formalist and structuralist analyses of the dream include V. M. Markovich’s “Son Tat´iany v poeticheskoi strukture ‘Evgeniia Onegina,’” and both Iurii Lotman’s and Vladimir Nabokov’s exhaustive examinations of the dream’s folkloric and literary imagery have inspired a generation of Western Slavists. Michael Katz’s discussion in his Dreams and the Uncon­scious in Nineteenth-Century Russian Fiction provides valuable insights into the psychology of the dream’s role in the text itself, whereas Olga Peters Hasty brings together feminist, literary, and psychological view­points in a synthetic discussion of the dream’s symbolism and referents in Pushkin’s novel in her Pushkin’s Tatiana. In a different take on Pushkin, Georgii Gachev provides an unabashedly erotic interpretation of the dream in Russkii eros. Freudian interpretations of Tat´iana’s dream, such as those by J. Douglas Clayton and Daniel Rancour-Laferriere, have un­clothed the striking sexual imagery present—and repressed—in Tat´iana’s novelistic development. These explications of the dream show how we are witnessing the maturation, on some level, of a girl into a woman within a sexually-repressed environment; both her letter to Onegin and her dream are filled with passion and desire, and are as erotically charged as a girl in her age and time could conceive. Yet her growth is primarily linguistic, and the reader feels it: whereas Tat´iana is barely known early in the novel, by the end of the novel the reader is somehow close to Tat´iana, even though until her final speech to Onegin she has only been uncovered indirectly, through translated letters, interpreted dreams, the occasional conversation, and narratorial exclamations. Tat´iana’s entrance into—and construction through—language are major thrusts of the novel.

This paper proposes a gentle reexamination of Tat´iana’s linguistic development in the context of theoretical work by Jacques Lacan, in the context of the Romantic aesthetic.[2] Lacan’s ideas work particularly well with literature since his conception of psychology is based on the forma­tive nature of language, its signifiers, and the gaps between them. If for Lacan we exist as a set of signifiers which by their nature exclude the Other, then an attainment of the Absolute—that is, a unification with the Other and a merging of all signifiers (and a grounding of the signifieds, the “phallic mother” of pre-signification, a union of the split subject and split Other)—is an antecedent to be found in the philosophy of European Romantic philosophers and writers. Nineteenth-century Romantic ideal­ism and the concurrent notion of Romantic irony are based on the concept of the word as signifier: the word in the poetic text was to resolve Roman­tic philosophy’s foremost paradox—how to combine an inexpressible Infi­nite in a physically-based Finite. Lacan’s conceptions of the (mis[s])iden­tity of the subject help us chart the stages of Tat´iana’s dream sequence as an expression of Desire resulting from her rejection by Onegin after she wrote her letter, a rejection which helped facilitate her entry into lan­guage and the Symbolic. For Lacan, signifiers—language—are paramount, and it is through them that we attempt a sense of self. Language defines us as we enter it.[3] We enter language, however, through a negation—a castration performed by the Nom-du-Père who causes us to renounce our Imaginary identification with the mother. The play of words in French is with “non-du-père,” which categorizes the function of this father stand-in. That “non” dissolves the narcissistic identifications of the Imaginary. The separation is the act of signification, begun by the phallic signifier, which mandates all difference, and which is the basis for linguistic and cultural creation, the initiation into the Symbolic, and the realization of lack. As such, women are always signified by a negation, therefore possessing something unknown and unquantifiable, and always meant to be objecti­fied by men (although Lacan simultaneously reinforces that the phallic signifier is in itself a joke, in that it is itself a cultural and linguistic con­struct). Once we enter the Symbolic, we express our Desire through lan­guage, and through its cracks and slips of our linguistically-structured (un)consciousness. Post-Lacanian thinkers such as Luce Irigaray have taken the role of the phallic signifier and used it to a feminist advantage, arguing that the realm of signification could be reordered so that women and men are equal, and that it is possible for women to enter the Symbolic as “men” (that is, dressing in a masculine role), appropriating the Sym­bolic and denying or absorbing the phallic signifier as her own.[4] Our entry into the Symbolic creates our Desire, and significantly, for Lacan, Desire can never be completed, for it is a fantasy. Our signification results in a split subject that is forever cognizant of both the fact that it is not whole and the fact that it has been neutered away from its mirror image of wholeness and illusion (on some level) by the “non-du-père.” The difference in Irigaray’s interpretation is that the feminine split subject could, per­haps, not be objectified, but rather be an equal to the masculine.

In Evgenii Onegin, Tat´iana begins as the Romantic ideal: as readers, we remain unfamiliar with who Tat´iana is, whereas we are quite convinc­ingly introduced to Onegin.[5] Tat´iana is an expression of the Absolute—a perfection and synthesis of all desires, uninscribed except through her Imaginary identification with the novels she reads: the same type of novel that her mother had read before. Tat´iana lives alone with her sister and mother, with no visible Nom-du-Père to allow her to enter into the Sym­bolic and into language.[6] As Nabokov and Emerson, among others, point out, she is only as much an entity as allow the texts of male sentimentalist writers she chooses to read and on whom she modeled her letter, so she writes her letter to Onegin with lines taken from contemporary male Sen­timentalist writers.[7] In it, she exclaims “Je vous écris; voilà. C’est tout. / Et je n’ai plus rien à vous dire.”[8] Tat´iana begins by hinting at her inabil­ity to speak—she is not expressing herself with her own language, but once she begins, she continues with the language of others.

Tat´iana’s letter causes Onegin to reply verbally, as opposed to in a letter, and his reply betrays how inured to the Absolute he has become.[9] Onegin recognizes in her his female ideal—“Having found my former ideal” (Nashed moi prezhnii ideal; 4/XIII/10)—and does not subject her to masculine fantasy in the realm of the Symbolic. Therefore he can boldly claim “I love you with the love of a brother” (Ia vas liubliu liubov´iu brata; 4/XVI/3). He will cherish her letter as “proof” of her passion, but no more: it is the concrete expression of her Imaginary identification with him and with the novels she has read. It is also an expression of the similar identi­fications that Onegin has repressed: Onegin is completely held in thrall by the Symbolic and its power of signification—of language. He cannot accept Tat´iana on the terms she is offering, the terms expressed by others and taken up by her in her emotional state. In his life in St. Petersburg, he viewed women as extensions of his fantasies, as constructions of his own linguistic making. By recognizing Tat´iana as his (former) ideal, Onegin also recognizes an imperative to save her: in essence, he has taken her as she had wished. He dissects her passion, so awkwardly expressed, thereby redirecting both her passion and language. As such, he becomes the Nom-du-Père, allowing Tat´iana to enter into the Symbolic and language. This sets the stage for the subsequent morphing of the Tat´iana-ideal the reader has known until now (although Tat´iana’s own understanding of that change only occurs later in Onegin’s library). His role as non-du-père is found in his remarkably succinct advice:

Полюбите вы снова: но…
Учитесь властвовать собою;
Не всякой вас, как я, поймет;
К беде неопытность ведет.

You will love again, but…
Learn to control yourself;
Not everyone will understand you as I;
To misfortune does inexperience lead.  (4/XVI/11–14)

Onegin is giving her the key to her own future: Tat´iana must take on a masculine sense of the phallic signifier of language—to enter the Sym­bolic as a man. Tat´iana must, in effect, learn to avoid, somehow, entering the realm of masculine desire as an object (an object of fantasy).[10] To do this, she must become adept in the language into which we are all divided by the chain of signifiers, beginning with the phallus. If, for Lacan, “the Woman” does not exist, then for Tat´iana, the urgency is to come as close as possible to this non-existence—as a man—to allow herself the ability of becoming the Other while escaping the objectification of men.[11] The diffi­culties inherent in approaching this status are laid out periodically in the text by those with male language: narratorial and textual allusions to Malfilâtre and Zhukovskii locate Tat´iana’s love as well as her dream within the ironic framework of the adolescent girl, involved with forces (a ghost, a self-satisfied dandy) which she cannot understand. The dream is, in itself, an exhibit of her (and Onegin’s) desire after the advice she was given in the garden, advice that is then subsequently fulfilled.

The dream is constructed as the psychological parallel of the Imagi­nary world in which Tat´iana exists when she meets Onegin, in which Onegin is the specular mirror of her existence. In clinical practice, Lacan has seen dreams as the expression of Desire (Desire for the Desire of the Other).[12] As such, the dream sequence is an expression of the desire of both Tat´iana and Onegin: an expression of a roadmap for both—what to give and what to receive in order to (re)order their relationship. That, of course, will lead to yet again more Desire. Tat´iana’s dream offers her a solution as provided by the language she was given earlier and which has penetrated her unconscious to reveal its surprise of discovery, as I will show below. Tat´iana’s dream in itself marks the continuation of a pro­gressive change in the Romantic conception of the unconscious, a concep­tion which had its roots in the poetic tradition of Goethe and Bürger. Not only confined to foretell the future and provide revealing insights into the state of the protagonist’s perceived affairs, nor used to provide a tenuous union with the Absolute that could only be achieved through the half-reality of sleep, Tat´iana’s nightmare becomes in fact an explanatory vehi­cle, illustrating her psychology, and reflecting her Desire through lan­guage.[13] In traditional ways, the women in the literary works mentioned throughout Evgenii Onegin are destroyed by virtue of being ideals which are signified by the men who desire them. This is Tat´iana’s inevitable end if she allows herself to be taken as an other—an object—a male fantasy. The paradox—and ultimate solution—is in her own attraction to Onegin as a literary creation (both her own and that of Evgenii Onegin’s narrator), an attraction located within a framework of textual possession and de­struction, again both in her own essence and that of the novel itself.

The sequence of Tat´iana’s dream is well-known. In it are, most impor­tantly, two obvious thresholds to be overcome: Tat´iana must cross a brook and Onegin has to cross over to Tat´iana, who is behind the door in his hut. There is a third threshold which is also broached but is not as readily apparent: the metatextual narrator (metatextual in that he is beyond the scope of the narrator who presents the story to us—he is privy both to Tat´iana’s dream and Onegin’s feelings, for example) pushes his way twice into the dream. The crossing of each threshold is linked to the act of signi­fication and entry into the Symbolic.

Upon beginning her dream, Tat´iana is in the throes of her own poten­tial sexuality; she is called deva twice in this comparatively short sequence (as opposed to four times in the remainder of the novel), thereby emphasizing her role as pure Romantic heroine and her sexual virginity,[14] as well as the unsignified, unpossessed girl, unsignified by language (her sense of identity is still Imaginary and reflected in the books she has read: she has been rejected by Onegin, and she is still in the process of being symbolically castrated by language). The metatextual narrator’s judg­ment—referring to her as deva—likewise reveals his intrusion into her psychology.

The first threshold Tat´iana must cross is laid out in the first stanza. In the middle of winter she comes upon a torrent of rushing water: the brook as a barrier which must be crossed is an archetype of sexual matu­ration. (This is clearest in fairytales such as Hänsel und Gretel, although the concept of the obstacle in itself is universal, and is easily found in the Baba Yaga cycle of Russian tradition.) The water in the brook, signifi­cantly, is described as “not frozen”:

В сугробах снежных перед нею
Шумит, клубит волной своею
Кипучий, темный и седой
Поток, не скованный зимой.

In the snowdrifts before her
Rumbles, puffs up its wave
A churning, dark and hoary
Stream, not frozen by winter.  (5/XI/5-8)

In a metaphorical way, water itself symbolizes female fertility: it is life-giving (nurturing) and is the maternal origination of life (birth).[15] In Russian, the word voda is a rough transposition of the word used to describe Tat´iana (deva), a nuance given more importance by the word used to describe the ice bridge which could permit her to cross to the other side—drozhashchii—which brings to mind the Russian verb of giving birth (rozhat´). The virgin Tat´iana comes across the power of female sexu­ality rushing across the winter of her childhood state (the potential of spring and birth, moreover winter is associated with Tat´iana throughout the novel), separating her from the other side, which she must somehow reach. The only way across this barrier is by an ice bridge fastened with two poles.[16] Ice is the congealed state of water, and as such holds in sus­pension its fertilizing and irrigating potentials, ready to release them in the future. In French, which is equally applicable to Tat´iana’s way of thinking, and certainly the language in which she was possibly dreaming, one possible way of rendering this concept of ice and being frozen is the word gel, with clear associations to elle, and even more so to “je-elle,” play­ing very nicely into the concept that Tat´iana is witnessing her entry into the symbolic as a speaking subject (je) while still navigating the signifiers that govern that language, rooted in the phallus which by its nature makes her different (elle).[17] It is significant that Tat´iana does not face a bridge constructed merely from the poles. Rather, the ice must remain frozen in order for her to cross the brook: instead of a metaphoric breaking of the hymen (signifying her femininity, making her an object and re­sulting in her destruction in the torrent below), Tat´iana’s state of non-signification must be maintained.[18]

In the Lacanian sense, however, the phallus is primarily the first signifier that sets into motion a signifying chain that allows the subject to enter into language and into the Symbolic. This development forever splits the subject, for signification fundamentally means a lack. There are two men—both split subjects—whose language both threaten Tat´iana and facilitate her entrance into the Symbolic, providing her with the opportu­nity to maintain and develop her je-elle, to enter the Symbolic as a man, the master or maître (or me-être). If Tat´iana succeeds, she will transcend Romantic objectification, and preserve her status, but she will likewise cataclysmically end both Onegin’s and the narrator’s mastery of the Sym­bolic—and the novel. As such, the poles of the dream represent the two phalluses which have written her life and interpret her lack of significa­tion until now—those of Onegin (who dealt with her letter and gave her the key to understanding language) and the metatextual narrator, who in his role as narrator translated her letter initially, and is now both present­ing her dream (in stanzaic form!), possibly translating its scenes from French, and forcing his way into it. Despite this, Tat´iana cannot be pos­sessed by the metatextual narrator: her textual existence in the Imagi­nary cannot be affected by his language (his phallus, his pen, one of the poles), but her inner world of growing sexual maturity—of signification—can be observed. Onegin likewise has not yet possessed or objectified Tat´iana, although he initiated, with his speech in the garden, her en­trance into the Symbolic: he created in her a subtle awareness of the signi­fiers and language that govern human interaction. Just as neither the narrator nor the hero (nor, indeed, the [implied] reader) have possessed her, so the ice prevents these poles from coming in contact with the rush­ing female sexuality below, and vice versa. It is the bear, her future husband’s friend, who guides her across the chasm safely, preventing her from becoming objectified by the act of phallic signification.[19] The bear, who appears from under the snow, is a primal object from Tat´iana’s Real: the world that is not reflected in the Imaginary nor signified in the Sym­bolic. As Tat´iana enters the Symbolic, we can assume that it is in French: Pushkin refers to Tat´iana’s lack of Russian abilities frequently. Her Nom-du-Père, then, is also French—and in French—allowing for Russia to re­main hidden, under the snow, unless it appears in a dream…

Having crossed the bridge, however, Tat´iana is chased by the bear-best-man-representative-of-her-future-husband, is reduced to a mere shell of her former self, without the ornaments and jewelry of women of her time; without the cultural indicators of French culture, she is now a strictly bodily woman, she is picked up by the bear and carried to a hut, his “gossip’s” home, where he leaves her.[20] The hut itself is common in the Baba Yaga tales as the portal between the living and the dead, or as here, between a child’s death and an adult’s birth, or the entrance into a culturally-specified Symbolic. Tat´iana is ready for her initiation into man­hood; she stands before the searing intrusion of the inexpressible Real, the limiting of the Imaginary, and the induction into the Symbolic and its accompanying desire.

The creatures Tat´iana surveys in the hut have been identified with the male sexuality to which she must become accustomed into order to unite with Onegin.[21] Certainly the phallic signifier is apparent; Onegin is fully in control, the master of the dread images surrounding him. He is the maître—the master—and the me-être, the one who is—by virtue of ability to command the monsters who surround him: “So, he is the master, it is clear” (On tam khoziain, eto iasno; 5/XVIII/5).[22] This is emphasized graph­ically through the juxtaposition of the pronouns on and vse in stanza XVIII: “He gives the signal, and all get busy” (On znak podast: i vse khlopochut; 5/XVIII/1). It should be noted that the metatextual narrator has again intruded at this point, but in order to textualize Onegin, “the hero of our novel” (geroi nashego romana; 5/XVII/12), implicitly revealing that Tat´iana has also become aware of her role in the pages of the novel (if she is dreaming, how does she know that he is the hero of the novel?). The dual confines of presignified nothingness and the pages of the text itself are beginning to crack. She is, as a result, removed from beyond her own textual prison.

In her dream, however, she is still trapped, and views Onegin from be­hind a door[23]—the second threshold mentioned earlier. The door is the necessary division that helps creates the Symbolic. At the end of the stanza, Onegin approaches the door. Tat´iana’s powerlessness is empha­sized by the first line of stanza XIX, where she is reduced to a dative pronoun, ei, caught behind a punctuation mark in the line, leaving her lit­erally within his grasp:

Все встали: он к дверям идет.
И страшно ей; и торопливо
Татьяна силится бежать.

Everyone got up: he goes to the door.
And she’s afraid: and hurriedly
Tat´iana tries to run.  (5/XVIII/14, 5/XIX/1–2)

The narrator relates that as the door swings open, “appeared the girl” (iavilas´ deva; 5/XIX/7), an act of initial signification that emphasizes her maidenhood, the state she has preserved while crossing the brook earlier in the dream. Nine lines later the stanza ends with the most perplexing language of the dream. Upon seeing her, the monsters cry out that she is theirs, but use the neuter form moe. Why the neuter? the morning after she has written her confession of love to Onegin, Tat´iana is referred to once by her nurse as “my child” (moe ditia). Her nurse is the represen­tative of female obligations to be an object—she was married away against her will, just as was Tat´iana’s mother. In her own eyes, as in the eyes of male society, Tat´iana is therefore a neuter in that she has not begun to be signified: she has not yet entered into the Symbolic, although the potential for sexuality, as expressed in her letter and seen at the bridge, is there.[24] The monsters see a Tat´iana stripped of her earrings and other baubles, presenting herself without her usual accoutrement of (French) culture, without the identifications she has established throughout her life to this point. When the monsters, in turn, cry out “moe!,” they approach Tat´iana as representatives of the horror of loss: they are Russia, masculinity, lan­guage (which can create the most horrible beasts and the more terrible voids), and, by their demonic signification, indicators of her repression of earlier Imaginary associations.

Sigmund Freud’s statement “Wo Es war, soll Ich werden”[25] is not only an almost Lacanian play on signifiers (typically Freud referred to the neu­ter das Es), but it betrays the situation here well. Lacan relocated the psychological subject to something that usually corelates to the Freudian id, the Es.[26] Once it is symbolized by language, the Lacanian subject is split, but this is the only way to move into being, a being and subject that remains rooted in the Es. The monsters are providing Tat´iana with her solution: she must become woman, establish her je-elle—her Ich—without becoming a masculine fantasy in the language of the Symbolic. When Onegin uses the same pronoun as the first word of stanza XX (it is itali­cized as well as set off) he speaks the same truth, but it is much more ex­plicitly tied to his encounter with Tat´iana in the garden. The italics indi­cate that the word is perhaps shouted, the admonition of the father, the non-du-père, itself an echo of earlier speech. When he admonished her then, he saw her as a virginal child who had bared her emotions before him. When he says “moe” in the dream, he is reenacting that moment. In the French translation, he shouts “à moi” in response to the monsters’ “c’est à moi.” He is providing Tat´iana with the answer to her entrance into language: he saves her from the others and wants to be desired for it.

Whereas Gregg sees the entire banquet scene as a switch in focus and control from the female to the male, I would venture that quite the oppo­site is taking place in the realm of signifiers, for the conflict is between a nonsignified female and the phallic signifier of language.[27] Tat´iana has survived the initiation rite with her purity, and thereby enters language without being (in)scribed as a male fantasy: she is the mother who does not have the lack of having been signified, has not been symbolically cas­trated by language, but rather can enter into language as a true whole Other without being split, a whole subject that has knowledge of her un­conscious, for she is a woman who has entered the Symbolic as a man. With this, Tat´iana transcends the limitations of Romantic idealism and irony, and is not the object of a masculine fantasy: she sits with Onegin on the “couch of love” holding him. Now the roles are reversed: he feels desire for the mother figure—he wants to be loved by her, the ideal he has saved, and places his head against her breast.

This is, of course, a dream, and what Tat´iana is seeing and experienc­ing cannot happen while she is conscious, but it reflects her Desire: it is Tat´iana, then, who in this dream wills Lenskii’s death. In her entry into signification, she desires the ruin of the man who plays his own part in the rendering of women as objects (in his Romantic poems). She in turn must try to enlighten her sister Ol´ga—make her at least aware of her complicity in language. Through her transcendence of signification, Tat´iana eliminates the only true remaining element of Romantic idealism which persisted in its erring quest for the Absolute through the possession of text and female beauty. Lenskii is destroyed through the primal signi­fier, and is the victim of Tat´iana’s new-found access to the domain of language/phallus/desire. Tat´iana removes the one representative of the novelistic tradition on which she had based her entire existence and her love for Onegin—the one man who most closely emulates the Onegin-Grandison she desired, but who instead was to marry her sister.[28] Upon this act of signification the dream ends abruptly.

The dream sequence has given Tat´iana an understanding of significa­tion and how it meshes with Onegin’s admonitions in the garden, and her knowledge of language and signification is completed when she happens upon Onegin’s journal and books (7/XXI–XXV). Romantic idealism is buried with Lenskii in his grave.

In keeping with the role reversal that Onegin set in motion during the fateful moments in the garden, it is Onegin who becomes the slave against the discourse of the master upon seeing Tat´iana in St. Petersburg in chapter 8. Here, the metatextual narrator informs the reader that Onegin is in love with Tat´iana “like a child”:

[…] Евгений
В Татьяну как дитя влюблен.

[…] Evgenii
Like a child is in love with Tat´iana.  (8/XXX/1–2)

It is an echo of the neuter moe of the dream, but here the Es is refer­ring to the unsignifiable—the lack of language—that Onegin now has. He loses his ability to speak when faced with his now non-objectified ideal. He can be distraught, for Tat´iana has already secured her chastity and hence remained the ideal: “That little girl … or is it a dream?” (Ta devochka … il´ eto son?; 8/XX/10) and survived through to adulthood, whereas Onegin has regressed to pre-adolescence (ditia). He is joined in his powerlessness by the metatextual narrator, who makes this clear through his interference:

Ужель та самая Татьяна,
Которой он наедине,
В начале нашего романа,
Читал когда-то наставленья.

Can it be that same Tat´iana,
To whom alone he,
At the beginning of our novel
Once read exhortations.  (8/XX/1–3, 6)

The echoes of the interference when Tat´iana saw Onegin in the hut are clear: both the narrator and Onegin have no power over her, and the reverberation of the dream here is a parody of their masculinity.[29] Tat´iana refuses to choose the option Romantic philosophy would have her take: to throw herself into a passion which will objectify and ruin her. As Vissarion Belinskii states, she is now a woman who knows the worth and price of the world around her.[30] It is now Onegin who is stripped of his masculine garb, and Tat´iana who is truly masculine, having vanquished the limitations of female objectification and literally stepped out of the text. She possesses him through language, delivering a monologue which reconstructs their past encounter in the garden from a revisionist per­spective and eliminates all signifiers except those of woman, socialite, and princess. Yet by rewriting history into herstory, she draws the novel to a close, never even allowing Pushkin the author the ability to continue it. Romantic idealism is parodied to completion through the inversion of gender within its own semiotic hierarchy.


University of Denver



Beaudoin, Luc. "Language, Gender and the Dream in Evgenii Onegin." Pushkin Review 8-9 (2005-06): 117-30.

[1] See Harold P. Blum, MD, “The Writing and Interpretation of Dreams,” in Psycho­analytic Psychology 17: 4 (2000): 651–66. Contemporary scientific study implies that dreams, closely tied to learning, are literal outlets for emotions linked to spe­cific mental content, a way for us to organize and establish memory. See J. Allen Hobson, Dreaming: An Introduction to the Science of Sleep (Oxford: Oxford Univer­sity Press, 2002).

[2] See Rosalind Minsky, ed., Psychoanalysis and Gender: An Introductory Reader (London: Routledge, 1996), 15. Minsky provides an entertainingly readable sum­mary of the manner in which psychoanalysis informs the construction of gender identity, particularly from a Lacanian and post-Lacanian framework.

[3] An excellent introduction and overview to Lacan can be found in Madan Sarup, Jacques Lacan (New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992), as well as Minsky, Psy­choanalysis and Gender. A useful summary can also be found in Mark Bracher, Lacan, Discourse, and Social Change: A Psychoanalytic Cultural Criticism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993).

[4] See Luce Irigaray, “Any Theory of the ‘Subject’ Has Always Been Appropriated by the ‘Masculine,’” trans. Gillian C. Gill, in The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, ed. Amelia Jones (London: Routledge, 2003), 124. Irigaray’s interpretation of women entering the Symbolic as men is fairly negative at this stage in her work, stating that it requires that women make their own specific pleasures empty, that they submit to the impositions and emptiness that language imposes on them, and that they enter into masculine “tropes and tropisms” (ibid.). In her later work, however, Irigaray develops a more nuanced version of this question: “The con­struction of subjectivity for the woman implies that she comes out of an exclusive relation with the same as herself, the mother, and that she discovers the relation with a different other, while remaining herself. Egalitarian or separatist strategies cannot resolve such a problem. What can assist the woman in becoming subject is the discovery of the other, the masculine, as horizontally transcendent, and verti­cally transcendent, to her. It is not the submission of the law of a Father that can permit the woman to become herself, corporeally and culturally, but the conscious and voluntary recognition, in love and in civility, of the other as other.” Luce Iri­garay, “Approaching the Other as Other,” in Luce Irigaray: Key Writings, ed. Luce Irigaray (London: Continuum, 2004), 27. Lacan also obliquely hints at this ine­quality in his notion of master and slave discourses: “To whomsoever really wishes to confront this Other, there opens up the way of experiencing not only his de­mand, but also his will”; and then: “either to realize oneself as object, to turn one­self into a mummy, as in some Buddhist initiation rite, or to satisfy the will to castration inscribed in the Other, which culminates in the supreme narcissism of the Lost Cause…” See Jacques Lacan, Écrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977), 324.

[5] Trina R. Mamoon has written a delightful article on the development of Tat´iana in “(Re)Re-Reading Pushkin,” Russian Studies in Literature 40: 2 (2004): 34–51.

[6] Lacan writes in his seminar Les psychoses 1955–1956, “If there are many more hysteric-women than hysteric-men—it’s a fact of clinical experience—it is because the road towards symbolic realization in a woman is more complicated. Becoming a woman and asking oneself what a woman is are two things that are essentially different. Even more, it is because one does not what one asks oneself self about, and, to a certain point, asking oneself is the opposite of becoming.” See Jacques Lacan, Le séminaire de Jacques Lacan: Livre 3. Les psychoses 1955–1956 (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1981), 200. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations from Russian and French are my own.

[7] See Vladimir Nabokov, trans. and commentary, Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse,2 vols. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975), 2: 378–79 and 386–94, as well as Caryl Emerson, “Tatiana,” in Sona Stephen Hoisington, ed., A Plot of Her Own: The Female Protagonist in Russian Literature (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1995), 6–20; esp. 12–13.

[8] Alexandre Pouchkine, Eugène Onéguine, trans. Jean-Louis Backès (Paris: Galli­mard, 1996), 114. All references to the French translation of Evgenii Onegin are from this source. Nabokov’s reconstruction of Tat´iana’s letter reads as follows: “Je vous écris—en faut-il plus? / Que pourrais-je dire encore?” (Nabokov, Eugene Onegin, 2: 387). Nabokov’s reconstruction indicates the writers from which Tat´iana lifted her lines. The Russian “translation” reads as follows: “ Ia k vam pishu—chego zhe bole? / Chto ia mogu eshche skazat´?” All references to the Russian are from the 1937 Jubilee edition of Pushkin’s works: A. S. Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, vol. 6 (Moscow: Izdatel´stvo AN SSSR, 1937).

[9] Pushkin had, in fact, considered having Onegin reply to Tat´iana by letter, keep­ing to the genre of the epistolary novel. It is therefore significant that he chose to have them meet and converse instead. See Nabokov, Eugene Onegin, 423. Writing is an instance of control, but it is control as exhibited by the fact that writing is not intended to be read: “Lacan claims he put ‘Ecrits’ on the cover of his collection because ‘un écrit [a writing] in my opinion is made not to be read.’” See Jane Gallop, Reading Lacan (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985), 36. The control, then, is in the ironic avoidance of being pinned down in signification: the reader will inevitably read in whichever fashion suits her, even to the point that a letter may never be really portrayed in a story. Lacan’s seminar on Poe’s “The Purloined Letter” (1845), explains this best. See Jacques Lacan, Écrits I (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1966/1999), 11–61. Speech, as language that is uttered more or less spontaneously, is, however, more immediately demanding—it is, in fact, a demand—and is much more open to interpretation, existing on the Symbolic plane as the means by which each speaker’s sense of subject is constituted.

[10] The object (lower case o) is the cause (as opposed to the goal) of Desire, the surplus that remains from the entrance of the Symbolic into the Real.

[11] “The Woman does not exist, since—I’ve already risked the term, and why would I consider it again?—in her essence, she is not whole.” Jacques Lacan, Le sémi­naire de Jacques Lacan: Livre XX, Encore 1972–1973 (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1975), 68.

[12] “We discover that certain objects are coveted by the Other and learn to want them ourselves, modeling our desire on the Other’s desire. Not only do we want the Other’s desire to be directed on us (we want to be the object, indeed the most important object, of the Other’s desire); we also come to desire like the Other—we take the Other’s desires as our own.” Bruce Fink, A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis: Theory and Technique (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Uni­versity Press, 1997), 54. See also “Man’s desire is the desire of the Other”; Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978), 235. See also Bruce Fink, Lacan to the Letter: Reading “Écrits” Closely (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004): “And it is this desire—the patient’s desire which lies be­yond his request—that is fulfilled in the dream” (31). See also Jacques Lacan, Écrits 2 (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1966/1999), 107–10, for a discussion of the dream in its role as part of a specific analysis.

[13] The inexpressible of the Absolute was best described as a fog, floating at the boundary of consciousness and transcendental knowledge, much like people today will describe near-death experiences in terms of dark and light.

[14] Richard A. Gregg, “Tat´jana’s Two Dreams: The Unwanted Spouse and the Demonic Lover,” Slavonic and East European Review 48 (1970): 492–505, esp. 500.

[15] See J. E. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols, trans. Jack Sage (London: Routledge, 1971), 364–67.

[16] The importance of the reference that the bridge is made of ice (frozen water) has not been generally discussed, although Rancour-Laferriere, for example, has inter­preted its delicacy as symbolic of a virgin’s hymen. See Daniel Rancour-Laferriere, “Puškin’s Still Unravished Bride: A Psychoanalytic Study of Tat´jana’s Dream,” Russian, Croatian and Serbian, Czech and Slovak, Polish Literature 25: 2 (1989): 215–58, esp. 219–20.

[17] In the French translation: “Deux perches liées par le gel / Forment au-dessus du courant / Un pont chancelant, dangereux” (Pouchkine, Eugène Onéguine, 154). Lacan makes distinctions between the moi, which is in the Imaginary, and je, which is in the Symbolic.

[18] The poles themselves are interpreted by Rancour-Laferriere as the phallus of Tat´iana’s desired bridegroom. This interpretation would coincide well with the usual conception that the bear who appears in the following stanza to help her across the bridge is the future best man (the corollary to the bridegroom) of folkloric tales. The problem remains that there are in fact two phalluses. Both Rancour-Laferriere and Clayton offer interpretations whose common thread is the involuntary preservation of Tat´iana’s purity, as each implies that Tat´iana cannot be sexually satisfied by Onegin (thereby giving justification to both the concept of the hymen as well as the idea that the phallus(es) symbolized is that of her future husband). In a folkloric sense, then, it is Tat´iana’s future groom who allows her to maintain her status as subject. See J. Douglas Clayton, “Towards a Feminist Reading of Evgenii Onegin,” Canadian Slavonic Papers 29: 2–3 (1987): 255–65; Rancour-Laferriere, “Puškin’s Still Unravished Bride,” 251; and Iu. M. Lotman, Roman A. S. Pushkina “Evgenii Onegin”: Kommentarii (Leningrad: Prosveshche­nie, 1980), 270. See also Gregg, “Tat´jana’s Two Dreams,” 469.

[19] A crossing that allows her to safeguard her chastity for her husband while giving herself sexual release. See Clayton, “Towards a Feminist Reading,” 264.

[20] In French, his “compère”—a wonderful tie to the “nom-du-père.” See Pouchkine, Eugène Onéguine, 159.

[21] Gregg, “Tat´jana’s Two Dreams,” 500. This male sexuality can also be based on simple revulsion: the grotesque animals can be seen as representing the suitors every girl’s parents would have paraded through the house, with the girl on dis­play like in a zoo.

[22] Gachev also specifically equates “Onegin” with on, (he). See Georgii Gachev, Russkii eros: “Roman,” Mysli s zhizn´iu (Moscow: Interprint, 1994), 15.

[23] A common symbol of the vagina, which in turn implicitly refers to the phallus and the beginning of her signification. See Cirlot, Dictionary of Symbols, 85, 149.

[24] It should be noted that Pushkin was aware of the tendency to use the neuter form with brides-to-be in Russian folk songs. See Rancour-Laferriere, “Puškin’s Still Unravished Bride,” 222.

[25]Sigmund Freud, Gesammelte Werke, vol. 15, Neue Folge der Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die Psychoanalyse (London: Imago Publishing, 1940), 86.

[26] For an insightful discussion of Lacan’s reworking of Freud’s statement, see Jane Gallop, Reading Lacan, 95–96.

[27] Gregg, “Tat´jana’s Two Dreams,” 499.

[28] The motivation of Lenskii’s murder likewise can be interpreted in a Freudian fashion: Tat´iana justifies Onegin’s lack of interest in her by deciding that he must be homosexual, and therefore has him stab Lenskij with a knife, thereby com­pleting homosexual phallic penetration. See Rancour-Laferriere, “Puškin’s Still Unravished Bride,” 244.

[29] Emerson has a fascinating take on this entire section of the novel: Onegin is in fact dreaming. Tat´iana’s reaction, then, would be wholly in Onegin’s dream. If this is in fact a dream, the analysis of Tat´iana’s actions would not be different. Just as Tat´iana’s dream, by virtue of the intrusion by the metatextual narrator, is a vehicle with which to understand both her and Onegin, so his dream would do the same. See Caryl Emerson, “Tatiana,” 6–20.

[30] V. G. Belinskii, Vzgliad na russkuiu literaturu (Moscow: Sovremennik, 1988), 475.