Cursing at the Whirlwind: The Old Testament Landscape of «The Bronze Horseman»
Just over a century ago, Valery Briusov identified three emerging trends in the scholarly response to Pushkin’s The Bronze Horseman, corresponding roughly to the poem’s three dominant ideological planes: the social, the political, and the religious. As David Bethea observes, the poem’s religious angle received scant critical consideration in the subsequent decades, particularly post-1917; the past several years, however, have restored some balance to the critical reception, as a new generation of scholars has begun to address the poem’s rich metaphysical contexts. In 1990, Igor Nemirovsky argued that the basic organization of TheBronze Horseman around sacred events and themes (the creation of the world; the Lord’s wrath; punishment by flood) reveals the Bible as a major creative framework upon which Pushkin modeled the world of his Petersburg tale. Certainly, as more than one Pushkin scholar has observed, the Prologue to The Bronze Horseman stages a cosmogonic drama, featuring Peter the Great as the city’s mythic Creator, coaxing worlds out of words and wringing cosmos from a boggy chaos. Numerous critics have cast the passage as an overtly biblical drama, starring Peter as more than just any old demiurge: urban theorist Marshall Berman calls the Prologue “a kind of Petersburg Book of Genesis, beginning in the mind of the city’s creator-God,” and Gary Rosenshield reads the step-by-step genesis outlined in the Prologue as a metaphoric deification. Without doubt, Peter’s biblical pedigree has been well established in the critical literature; but what of his mortal counterpart, Evgeny: did Pushkin’s poor hero also have a scriptural forerunner?
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