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Title: The Russian Sublime: Origins, Rhetoric, and Romantic Response in Pushkin, Platonov, and Pelevin
Authors: Portice, Timothy James
Advisors: Emerson, Caryl
Contributors: Slavic Languages and Literatures Department
Keywords: Aesthetics
Subjects: Slavic literature
Comparative literature
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Abstract This dissertation investigates the aesthetic category of the sublime in Russia from the 18th century through the end of the 20th. In doing so, it follows two major trajectories: the development of the sublime in Russia in philosophical writings on aesthetics, and three case studies of the sublime in Russian literature. The first chapter examines the origins of the Russian sublime, beginning with Lomonosov’s reception of Boileau as the beginning of the Russian sublime tradition. After addressing works by Muraviev, Martynov, Galich, and Nadezhdin, the argument is made for a general development of the sublime from a rhetorically-structured category to one of experience. The second chapter centers on Pushkin’s novel-in-verse, Eugene Onegin, as an example of a “Pushkinian sublime”, which incorporates both the rhetorical and aesthetic dimensions of previous thinkers in order to express the freedom that derives from the power of the poetic imagination. The third chapter traces the development of what is called “the chiasmic sublime” of the 19th century. Drawing on readings of Chernyshevsky, Kierkegaard, Plekhanov, Nietzsche, Ivanov, and Lunacharsky, I argue that the central function of the sublime is to attempt to reconcile idealist notions of spirit with a rising importance of the material as an object of philosophical consideration. As a result, a dual understanding of the sublime occurs, in which each component of the chiasmus participates fully. This serves as the background for the case study of chapter four, in which I identify occurrences of the “chiasmic sublime” in the works of Andrei Platonov, in particular his 1930s novel, Dzhan. The final chapter examines Pelevin’s novel, Generation P, as an example of the Russian postmodern sublime. Beginning with an examination of Marx’s notes on the sublime published in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, I trace their development in Lyotard, Zizek, and Sloterdijk, centering on two ideas present in the culture of late capitalism: money as a sublime commodity, and cynicism as a sublime psychic state. In Pelevin’s novel, I argue that both inform the central challenges that are encountered and eventually overcome by its protagonist, Vavilen Tatarsky.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Slavic Languages and Literatures

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