Review: David Bethea, ed. «The Pushkin Handbook»

David M. Bethea, ed. The Pushkin Handbook. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005. xlii + 665 pp. ISBN 0-299-19560-0. Index. Cloth.

 

     The authors in this collection implicitly and explicitly compare The Pushkin Handbook with the 1966 volume Pushkin: Itogi i problemy izucheniia. As several contributors note, the drawback of the earlier tome was its ideological commitment to official optimism, i.e., to the idea that scholarship, like Soviet society, was infinitely improving. This belief in the perfectibility of humanity became strangely applied to the study of the “national poet.” A new volume appeared necessary now, says its editor, David Bethea, because the ideological mandates of the past are no longer in force and one can head in entirely new directions. I would also add that some of the best Pushkin research in the last forty years has been taking place in the United States, pursued by American scholars (many of them Russian-born). The sense that The Handbook can be the central volume about Pushkin scholarship for our own age is self-consciously expressed by the authors. William Mills Todd III, for example, titles his contribution—with the Itogi volume in mind—“Pushkin and Society: Post-1966 Perspectives.”

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Review: Alexandra Smith. «Montaging Pushkin: Pushkin and Visions of Modernity»

Alexandera Smith.  Montaging Pushkin: Pushkin and Visions of Modernity in Russian Twentieth-Century Poetry. Studies in Slavic Literature and Poetics, vol. 46. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006. 361 pp. ISBN 978-90-420-2012-2. Bibliography. Additional Reading. Index. Paper.

 

     In her recent book, Alexandra Smith aims to bind Pushkin and his work more closely to the age of modernism. Many other scholars, including Smith herself in her previous book, The Song of the Mockingbird: Pushkin in the Work of Marina Tsvetaeva (1994), have explored the ways in which twentieth-century authors and poets drew on Pushkin for inspiration, interacted with Pushkin’s works, and strove to enter into dialogue with the poet. In the present study Smith details the reasons she finds Pushkin to be particularly interesting and important for the twentieth century and how his work opens up in the new creative efforts by his descendents. Thus, although the topic of “Pushkin in the twentieth century” is not new, readers of Montaging Pushkin will find much more. Smith’s knowledge of both Pushkin himself and his twentieth-century admirers is vast, and readers should expect a book that in some ways is about both. She does not simply remind us   about Pushkin’s era in order to paint a backdrop for her true interest; instead, she explores the two eras with a voice that is both well-informed and perceptive.

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Review: Alexander Dolinin. «Pushkin i Angliia: Tsikl statei»

Alexander Dolinin. Pushkin i Angliia: Tsikl statei. Nauchnaia biblioteka.  Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2007.  276 pp. Index. ISBN 5-86793-520-5. Cloth.

 

     The articles that constitute this collection are engaging, erudite, and lively. The style of the essays is all the more praiseworthy, since Dolinin’s methodology calls for rather heavy reading: the book is an unabashed exercise in German-style philology. Dolinin wastes no time in his quest for sources, variants, and other philological niceties, exhibiting scholarship that gives most people—unless they are German philologists themselves—a slight headache caused by the ever-failing effort to keep in mind the ever-expanding network of names and citations. The titles of the essays speak for themselves: “From Investigations Around ‘Anchar’ (Sources, Parallels, Interpretations)” or “Pushkin’s Poem Angelo: Sources and Generic Peculiarities.”

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