Bookstore Event: Priscilla Meyer, "Nabokov and Indeterminacy," Susanne Fusso, "Editing Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy," and Katherine Lahti, “The Russian Revival of the Dithyramb”

Thursday, October 11, 2018
6:00 PM (ET)
Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore
Event Type
Bookstore Event
Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore

Priscilla Meyer, "Nabokov and Indeterminacy: The Case of The Real Life of Sebastian Knight" 

In Nabokov and Indeterminacy, Priscilla Meyer shows how Vladimir Nabokov’s early novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight illuminates his later work. Meyer first focuses on Sebastian Knight, exploring how Nabokov associates his characters with systems of subtextual references to Russian, British, and American literary and philosophical works. She then turns to Lolita and Pale Fire, applying these insights to show that these later novels clearly differentiate the characters through subtextual references and that Sebastian Knight’s construction models that of Pale Fire.
Meyer argues that the dialogue Nabokov constructs among subtexts explores his central concern: the continued existence of the spirit beyond bodily death. She suggests that because Nabokov’s art was a quest for an unattainable knowledge of the otherworldly, knowledge which can never be conclusive, Nabokov’s novels are never closed in plot, theme, or resolution—they take as their hidden theme the unfinalizability that Bakhtin says characterizes all novels.
The conclusions of Nabokov's novels demand a rereading, and each rereading yields a different novel. The reader can never get back to the same beginning, never attain a conclusion, and instead becomes an adept of Nabokov’s quest. Meyer emphasizes that, unlike much postmodern fiction, the contradictions created by Nabokov’s multiple paths do not imply that existence is constructed arbitrarily of pre-existing fragments, but rather that these fragments lead to an ever-deepening approach to the unknowable.
PRISCILLA MEYER is a professor of Russian at Wesleyan University. She is the author of How the Russians Read the French: Lermontov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy.
Susanne Fusso, "Editing Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy: Mikhail Katkov and the Great Russian Novel" 
Fathers and Sons by Turgenev. Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. These are a few of the great works of Russian prose that first appeared in the Russian Herald, a journal founded and edited by Mikhail Katkov. Yet because of his conservative politics and intrusive editing practices, Katkov has been either ignored or demonized by scholars in both Russia and the West. In Putin’s Russia, he is now being hailed as the “savior of the fatherland” due to his aggressive Russian nationalism. In Editing Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy, Susanne Fusso examines Katkov’s literary career without vilification or canonization, focusing on the ways in which his nationalism fueled his drive to create a canon of Russian literature and support its recognition around the world.
In each chapter, Fusso considers Katkov’s relationship with a major Russian literary figure. In addition to Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy, she explores Katkov’s interactions with Vissarion Belinsky, Evgeniia Tur, and the legacy of Aleksandr Pushkin. As a writer of articles and editorials, Katkov presented a clear program for Russian literature: to affirm the political and historical importance of the Russian nationality as expressed through its language. As a powerful and entrepreneurial publisher, he also sought, encouraged, and paid for the writing of the works that were to embody that program, the works we now recognize as among the greatest achievements of Russian literature. This groundbreaking study will fascinate scholars, students, and general readers interested in Russian literature and literary history.
“Fusso’s book concentrates on a man who played a very central role in the evaluation and publishing of some of the world’s greatest and most influential novels. Katkov’s wide reputation tended to picture him as a dyed-in-the-wool political reactionary. Fusso writes to correct this conventional notion. This is a truly significant contribution to the fields of literature and history.” — Irwin Weil, author of From the Cincinnati Reds to the Moscow Reds
Susanne Fusso is a professor of Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at Wesleyan University. She is interested in the 19th-century Russian novel, poetry of the 19th to 21st centuries, and translation. Her books include Designing Dead Souls: An Anatomy of Disorder in Gogol and Discovering Sexuality in Dostoevsky. She recently published a translation of Trepanation of the Skull (NIU Press 2014), an autobiographical novel by Sergey Gandlevsky, a prize-winning Russian poet. 
Katherine Lahti, “The Russian Revival of the Dithyramb”
Early twentieth-century Russia witnessed a revival of the dithyramb, a poetic form of verse and dance that ancient Greeks performed to summon Dionysus. The Russian Revival of the Dithyramb offers a fascinating recounting of this resurrection and traces the form’s surprising influence on Russian identity and art in the work of artists, writers, and musicians as varied as Aleksandr Blok, Andrei Bely, Aleksei Remizov, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Igor Stravinksy.
Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy and Viacheslav Ivanov’s treatise in response, “The Hellenic Religion of the Suffering God,” have been considered the foundation of the dithyramb revival, but Katherine Lahti shows Erwin Rohde’s Psyche: The Cult of Souls and the Belief in Immortality among the Greeks also to have played a significant role.
Lahti’s wide-ranging and expertly curated survey of art, music, and letters includes the poetry and plays of the Symbolists and Futurists, with special attention to The Fairground Booth and Vladimir Mayakovsky: A Tragedy; the theater of Ozarovsky, Meyerhold, and Evreinov; dancing by Isadora Duncan, Nijinsky, and Fokine; and Matisse’s canvas The Dance.
Lahti follows the persistence of the dithyramb’s popularity after 1917, when it enjoyed a special place in Russian culture during the first years after the Bolshevik Revolution. Demonstrating the influence of the dithyramb on the development of Russian avant-garde culture, this book reshapes our understanding of an extraordinarily dynamic period in Russian art and thought.
Katherine Lahti is an associate professor of modern languages at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Nabokov and Indeterminacy + Editing Turgenev, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
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