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Persistent FormsExplorations in Historical Poetics$
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Ilya Kliger and Boris Maslov

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823264858

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823264858.001.0001

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From the Prehistory of Russian Novel Theory

From the Prehistory of Russian Novel Theory

Alexander Veselovsky and Fyodor Dostoevsky on the Modern Novel’s Roots in Folklore and Legend

(p.340) Chapter 12 From the Prehistory of Russian Novel Theory
Persistent Forms

Kate Holland

Fordham University Press

This chapter locates Veselovsky’s and Dostoevsky’s contemporary work in the context of Alexander II’s “Great Reforms,” when the rupture dealt to Russian society by a series of radical government initiatives became perceived as a threat. As Holland shows, both Veselovsky and Dostoevsky turned to the origins of the novel in the popular genres of storytelling, most of them linked to Christian (apocryphal) legendary lore. While both figures favored Byzantium as a center of propagation of popular lore, Veselovsky sought to foreground the cultural-historical ties that unite Eastern and Western traditions, whereas Dostoevsky, while making ample use of the publications of contemporary medievalists, pursued an exceptionalist, Slavophile agenda. The chapter illuminates a formative phase in the evolution of Veselovsky’s proto-dialogic theory of cultural and literary interaction and serves to historicize his Historical Poetics—and perhaps more broadly, the modern preoccupation with artistic traditions—as a response to the experience of cultural rupture.

Keywords:   Dostoevsky, folklore, “Great Reforms”, novel, Veselovsky

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