Reading Backwards: An Advance Retrospective on Russian Literature - cover image


Muireann Maguire; Timothy Langen

Published On





  • English

Print Length

302 pages (xxviii+274)


Paperback156 x 21 x 234 mm(6.14" x 0.83" x 9.21")
Hardback156 x 24 x 234 mm(6.14" x 0.94" x 9.21")


Paperback1271g (44.83oz)
Hardback1661g (58.59oz)




OCLC Number





  • DS
  • 1DVUA
  • HBJ


  • LCO000000
  • LCO008010
  • LIT004240


  • PG2925


  • anticipatory plagiarism
  • Oulipo
  • French literature
  • Russian literature
  • literary canon
  • literary influence
  • nineteenth-century literature
  • Gogol
  • Dostoevsky
  • Tolstoy
  • Raphael
  • Homer
  • Hall Caine
  • Coetzee
  • Petrushevskaia
  • classics
  • cultural heritage
  • Russian Studies
  • comparative literature
  • reception studies
  • translation studies

Reading Backwards

An Advance Retrospective on Russian Literature

This edited volume employs the paradoxical notion of ‘anticipatory plagiarism’—developed in the 1960s by the ‘Oulipo’ group of French writers and thinkers—as a mode for reading Russian literature. Reversing established critical approaches to the canon and literary influence, its contributors ask us to consider how reading against linear chronologies can elicit fascinating new patterns and perspectives.

Reading Backwards: An Advance Retrospective on Russian Literature re-assesses three major nineteenth-century authors—Gogol, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy—either in terms of previous writers and artists who plagiarized them (such as Raphael, Homer, or Hall Caine), or of their own depredations against later writers (from J.M. Coetzee to Liudmila Petrushevskaia).

Far from suggesting that past authors literally stole from their descendants, these engaging essays, contributed by both early-career and senior scholars of Russian and comparative literature, encourage us to identify the contingent and familiar within classic texts. By moving beyond rigid notions of cultural heritage and literary canons, they demonstrate that inspiration is cyclical, influence can flow in multiple directions, and no idea is ever truly original.

This book will be of great value to literary scholars and students working in Russian Studies. The introductory discussion of the origins and context of ‘plagiarism by anticipation’, alongside varied applications of the concept, will also be of interest to those working in the wider fields of comparative literature, reception studies, and translation studies.


This book outlines with theoretical and literary historical rigor a highly innovative approach to the writing of Russian literary history and to the reading of canonical Russian texts. "Anticipatory plagiarism” is a concept developed by the French Oulipo group, but it has never to my knowledge been explored with reference to Russian studies. The editors and contributors to the proposed volume – a blend of senior and beginning scholars, Russians and non-Russians – offer a set of essays on Gogol, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy which provocatively test the utility of AP as a critical tool, relating these canonical authors to more recent instances, some of them decidedly non-canonical. The senior scholars who are the editors and most of the contributors are truly distinguished. The volume is likely to receive serious attention and to be widely read. I recommend it with unqualified enthusiasm.

William Mills Todd III

Harry Tuchman Levin Professor of Literature, Harvard University


[...] admirably clear, jargon-free and balanced introduction [...] everyone should read the introduction to this book [...] a scrupulously edited volume [...] As a retired academic who gave many lectures on Gogol, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, and sometimes struggled to find anything new to say, I wish I had had this book to hand.

Michael Pursglove

East-West Review Journal of the Great Britain-Russia Society, vol. 20, no. 3,


Timothy Langen

Russian language, literature, and cultural history at University of Missouri

Muireann Maguire

Russian Literature at University of Exeter