Reading Backwards: An Advance Retrospective on Russian Literature

Reading Backwards: An Advance Retrospective on Russian Literature Muireann Maguire and Timothy Langen (eds)
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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

As the founder of the notion of "plagiarism by anticipation", which was stolen from me in the sixties by fellow colleagues, I am delighted to learn that my modest contribution to literary theory will be used to better understand the interplay of interferences in Russian literature. Indeed, one would have to be naive to think that the great Russian authors would have invented everything. In fact, they were able to draw their ideas from their predecessors, but also from their successors, testifying to the open-mindedness that characterizes the Slavic soul. This book restores the truth.
Pierre Bayard, Professor of Literature, University of Paris 8

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.

Reading Backwards: An Advance Retrospective on Russian Literature
Muireann Maguire and Timothy Langen (eds) | June 2021
302pp. | 11 Colour Illustrations | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781800641198
ISBN Hardback: 9781800641204
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781800641211
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781800641228
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781800641235
ISBN Digital (XML): 9781800641242
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0241
Categories: BIC: DS (Literature: History and Criticism), 1DVUA (Russia), HBJ (Regional and National History); BISAC: LCO000000 (LITERARY COLLECTIONS / General), LCO008010 (LITERARY COLLECTIONS / European / Eastern (see also Russian & Former Soviet Union), LIT004240 (LITERARY CRITICISM / Russian & Former Soviet Union). OCLC Number: 1257479703.

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Contributor Biographies


Introduction: Countersense and Interpretation Download
Muireann Maguire and Timothy Langen

I. Gogol

1. Something for Nothing: Imagination and Collapse in O’Brien, Krzhizhanovsky, and Gogol Download
Timothy Langen

2. Seeing Backwards: Raphael’s Portrait of Nikolai Vasil’evich Gogol Download
Ilya Vinitsky

II. Dostoevsky

3. The Voice of Ivan: Ethical Plagiarism in Dostoevsky and Coetzee Download
Michael Bowden

4. Foretelling the Past: Fyodor Dostoevsky Follows Guzel’ Yakhina into the Heart of Darkness Download
David Gillespie and Marina Korneeva

5. Notes from the Other Side of the Chronotope: Dostoevsky Anticipating Petrushevskaia Download
Inna Tigountsova

III. Tolstoy

6. Master and Manxman: Reciprocal Plagiarism in Tolstoy and Hall Caine Download
Muireann Maguire

7. The Posteriority of the Anterior: Levinas, Tolstoy, and Responsibility for the Other Download
Steven Shankman

8. From Sky to Sea: When Andrei Bolkonsky Voiced Achilles Download
Svetlana Yefimenko

Afterword: But Seriously, Folks…. (Pierre Bayard and the Russians) Download
Eric Naiman

List of Figures


Michael Bowden is a postgraduate researcher and teaching assistant at the University of Leeds. His dissertation topic explores Dostoevsky’s influence over novels by J. M. Coetzee, David Foster Wallace and Atiq Rahimi, with a particular focus on the ethical implications of the polyphonic novel form. He received his BA and MA from the University of Manchester.

David Gillespie taught Russian to BA and MA students at the University of Bath, UK, from 1985 to 2016, when he retired as Professor of Russian Studies. He also taught Russian language to UK Ministry of Defence interpreters on a part-time basis at the University of Bristol from 1986 until 2011. He is currently Honorary Professor of Linguistics at Tomsk State University, and Honorary Research Fellow at Queen Mary University of London. He has published ten monographs, including Iurii Trifonov: Unity through Time (1993), and Russian Cinema (2003); over seventy peer-reviewed book chapters and journal articles, and presented over 100 papers at conferences in the UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Belgium, Holland, France, Croatia and Russia. He recently completed editing and updating the fourth edition of Terence Wade’s definitive A Comprehensive Russian Grammar, xxxiii + 601 pp.,published by Wiley-Blackwell (USA and UK) in May 2020. He is currently working on a monograph (A History of Russian Literature on Film),to be published by Bloomsbury in 2023.

Marina Korneeva gained her Candidate of Sciences degree in 2018 and is currently studying for her doctorate in foreign language teaching methodology at Tomsk State University. Since 2017 she has published over twenty peer-reviewed articles. Her monograph, based on her Candidate of Sciences thesis Teaching Foreign Languages to Students of Applied Mechanics through the Case Study Method, will be published by Tomsk University Press in 2021.

Timothy Langen teaches Russian language, literature, and cultural history at the University of Missouri. His research interests include the writings of Nikolai Gogol, Andrey Bely, and Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, and the intellectual history of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Russia. He is author of The Stony Dance: Unity and Gesture in Andrey Bely’s "Petersburg” (2005) and co-editor and co-translator, with Justin Weir, of Eight Twentieth-Century Russian Plays (2000).

Muireann Maguire lectures in Russian Literature at the University of Exeter, UK. She is the principal researcher on ‘RusTrans, The Dark Side of Translation: 20th and 21st Century Translation from Russian as a Political Phenomenon in the UK, Ireland, and the USA’ (2019–23), an academic project funded by the European Research Council. Her academic specializations include Gothic-fantastic literature, the fictional representation of pregnancy and childbirth, and the nineteenth-century Russian novel. Her book Stalin’s Ghosts: Gothic Themes in Early Soviet Literature was published by Peter Lang in 2012. She has published articles on Russian literature in Modern Language Review, Slavic Review, the Slavonic and East European Review, and other journals.

Eric Naiman teaches Russian and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Sex in Public: The Incarnation of Early Soviet Ideology (1997) and Nabokov, Perversely (2010), as well as many articles on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian literature.

Steven Shankman holds the UNESCO Chair in Transcultural Studies, Interreligious Dialogue, and Peace at the University of Oregon. His work in the Western classical tradition includes Pope’s Iliad: Homer in the Age of Passion (1983) and In Search of the Classic: Reconsidering the Classical Tradition, Homer to Valéry and Beyond (1994). His Penguin edition of Pope’s Iliad appeared in 1996. Some of his later scholarly work, including The Siren and the Sage: Knowledge and Wisdom in Ancient Greece and China (co-authored with Stephen Durrant, 2000) and Early China/Ancient Greece: Thinking through Comparisons (co-edited by Stephen Durrant, 2002), compares classical traditions. He is a co-editor of The World of Literature (1999), an anthology of world literature from a global perspective, which contains some of his own poetic translations from Chinese, Greek, and Latin. His original poems have appeared in a number of journals including The Sewanee Review, Literary Imagination, Literary Matters, Poetica Magazine, and Tikkun Magazine. Two of his books that explore the work of Emmanuel Levinas are Other Others: Levinas, Literature, Transcultural Studies (2010) and Turned Inside Out: Reading the Russian Novel in Prison (2017).

Inna Tigountsova holds degrees in Romano-Germanic Philology and Translation (Russian/English/German/Polish) from the Federal Baltic State University (Kaliningrad) and in Mediaeval Studies from the Central European University in Budapest. She received her PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto, held a postdoctoral fellowship at Memorial University, and has taught in Canada, the US, and the UK. Her first book The Ugly in Russian Literature: Dostoevsky’s Influence on Iurii Mamleev, Liudmila Petrushevskaia, and Tatiana Tolstaia (2009) was well-reviewed, and her second—Death and Disorder: Dostoevsky in the Context of Petrushevskaia and Goethe—is under contract with Academic Studies Press’ Studies in Comparative Literature and Intellectual History series, edited by Galin Tihanov. She has also published in The Dostoevsky Journal: A Comparative Literature Review; Modern Language Review; Slavic and East European Journal; Canadian Slavonic Papers; Ulbandus: The Slavic Review of Columbia University; Studies in Slavic Cultures; Canadian-American Slavic Studies, and elsewhere. Tigountsova’s translations include works by Dmitrii Prigov, Liudmila Petrushevskaia, and Alexander Piatigorsky.

Ilya Vinitsky is a Professor of Russian literature in the Slavic Department at Princeton University. His main fields of expertise are Russian Romanticism and Realism, the history of emotions, and nineteenth-century intellectual and spiritual history. His books include Vasily Zhukovsky’s Romanticism and the Emotional History of Russia (2015), Ghostly Paradoxes: Modern Spiritualism and Russian Culture in the Age of Realism (2009) and A Cultural History of Russian Literature, co-written with Andrew Baruch Wachtel (2009). His most personal book, The Count of Sardinia: Dmitry Khvostov and Russian Culture (2017; in Russian) investigates the phenomenon of anti-poetry in the Russian literary tradition from the eighteenth through the twenty-first century and focuses on the literary biography and cultural function of the "king” of Russian poetasters, Count Dmitry Khvostov. Vinitsky is currently working on a book about the cultural values of forgers and mystifiers.

Svetlana Yefimenko is a PhD candidate in Russian Studies and Classics at the University of Exeter (United Kingdom), researching Tolstoy’s diachronic reception of Homer. She is founder and editor-in-chief of Xanthos: A Journal of Foreign Literatures and Languages.