No other writer captured the fraught relations between Ukrainian and Russian nationalisms with as much complexity and lasting relevance as Nikolai Gogol. This pathbreaking book illuminates the deep cultural stakes of today’s geopolitical conflict.
The nineteenth-century author Nikolai Gogol occupies a key place in the Russian cultural pantheon as an ardent champion of Russian nationalism. Indeed, he created the nation’s most famous literary icon: Russia as a rushing carriage, full of elemental energy and limitless potential.
In a pathbreaking book, Edyta M. Bojanowska topples the foundations of this russocentric myth of the Ukrainian-born writer, a myth that has also dominated his Western image. She reveals Gogol’s creative engagement with Ukrainian nationalism and calls attention to the subversive irony and ambiguity in his writings on Russian themes. While in early writings Gogol endowed Ukraine with cultural wholeness and a heroic past, his Russia appears bleak and fractured. Russian readers resented this unflattering contrast and called upon him to produce a brighter vision of Russia. Gogol struggled to satisfy their demands but ultimately failed.
In exploring Gogol’s fluctuating nationalist commitments, this book traces the connections and tensions between the Russian and Ukrainian nationalist paradigms in his work, and situates both in the larger imperial context. In addition to radically new interpretations of Gogol’s texts, Bojanowska offers a comprehensive analysis of his reception by contemporaries.
Brilliantly conceived and masterfully argued, Edyta Bojanowska fundamentally changes our understanding of this beloved author and his place in Russian literature.
A major contribution to the history of Russian literary culture. Bojanowska illuminates Gogol's works in a new and interesting way, and makes a convincing case for his identification with Ukraine and his frequent inclination to compare Russia unfavorably to it. Her research is extensive, her argument fresh, stimulating, and controversial. The implications for our understanding of Gogol are enormous.
Edyta Bojanowska confronts head-on a fundamental anomaly: Nikolai Gogol was a Ukrainian, but he became a great Russian writer. She shows how Gogol, throughout his literary career, was deeply torn between his identity as a Ukrainian and his commitment to be a Russian writer. It was his mission to sear Russian hearts with his message of truth and righteousness and show them the way to purify their souls. But his Ukrainian heart was never really in it; he didn't like Russia or believe in it. This is an illuminating, impressive, and original work by a very talented scholar.
Bojanowska's well-researched, sophisticated, and provocative analysis of the writings of one of Europe's most famous nineteenth-century authors not only offers a new perspective on Gogol's life and works but also sheds new light on the complex and often contradictory formation of modern national identities. A major contribution to the study of nationalism, as well as to the intellectual and cultural history of the region.
Bojanowska's study is the most thorough yet attempted of Gogol's internally contradictory national identity, and it presents a challenging and convincing portrayal of his creativity… For a thorough and insightful study of Gogol's perpetual preoccupation with national identity…there is no better place to begin than with Edyta Bojanowska's book.
Bojanowska tackles an important (if narrow) subject with thoroughness and care and comes up with challenging and persuasive conclusions. True, the impact of Ukrainian culture on Gogol's works has been examined before—but never as seriously or with a more sharply defined point of view… Gogol's enduring pro-Ukrainian sympathies have indeed been neglected. Thanks to Bojanowska's efforts that imbalance has been righted.
Takes full advantage of historical hindsight, producing a well-grounded and elegantly astute consideration of Gogol's ever-evolving sense of nationalism and offering a valuable contribution to a growing field of postcolonial studies on Russia… Readers of Gogol will want to turn to Bojanowska's study for a focused and enlightening treatment of the dynamics of nationalism in his life and work.
[Bojanowska]'s broad and all-encompassing analysis, which harnesses previous research, including tiiat of Ukrainianists (a very welcome development indeed), and combines it with fresh observations, careful reading of the entire oeuvre and perceptive contextualization, makes her book a major accomplishment in Russian and Gogolian studies, a noteworthy antidote to the treatment of Gogol as an exclusive Russian possession. This book should become required reading for scholars and students alike.
Diplomatically, elegantly, and with sharp intelligence, [Bojanowska] sets out to undermine this 'Russocentric view of Gogol'… Bojanowska gives this complex new problem new life through a scrupulous analysis of Gogol's works, letters, and reception history… Bojanowska's book is not an 'either/or' tract, with simplistic answers to longstanding questions about Gogol's nationality and his relationship to two national cultures. It is a helpful primer for anyone who is interested in objectively reassessing Gogol's purported 'Russianness' and his relationship to Ukraine in an imperial context. Her book's major achievement lies not in the frequent references to him as a 'Ukrainian,' but in the elimination of the categorical and homogenizing tendencies that have put him forward as a clear-cut 'Russian.'
Bojanowska has written an important book that calls into question old assumptions about the interplay between national and imperial identities in nineteenth-century Russia. Extensively researched and with copious notes, it will be read with enormous interest and benefit not only literary scholars and historians of Ukraine and Russia, but by students of nationalities more broadly.
- 2008, Winner of the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Studies in Slavic Languages and Literatures
- 460 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.