Becoming Mikhail Lermontov: The Ironies of Romantic Individualism in Nicholas I's Russia

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Northwestern University Press, Dec 28, 2005 - Literary Criticism - 595 pages
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Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841) is one of Russia's most prominent poets--and one of its most puzzling. In this radically new interpretation, David Powelstock reveals how the seeming contradictions in Lermontov's life and works can be understood as manifestations of a coherent worldview.

By bringing to light Lermontov's operative version of Romantic individualism, Powelstock is able to make sense of the poet's relationship to "romantic irony," his highly modern concept of the reader (both real, and implied in the text), and his vexed passion for his predecessor Alexander Pushkin--a relationship that is almost always treated sentimentally, but is here given its true competitive edge. Furthermore, Powelstock offers the most persuasive account ever given of Lermontov's exceptionally odd treatment of, and success with, women--both in real life and in fiction--and of his cruel overlapping of these two planes.

Clarifying what has remained perplexing for so long, and correcting what has been misinterpreted, Powelstock's work illuminates Lermontov's views of dignity, death, love, nature, society, and ethics--and, finally, gives us an intellectual biography that is deeper and more subtle than any written before.

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Death and
Framing the Social
Taking the Stage

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About the author (2005)

David Powelstock is assistant professor of Russian and East European literatures at Brandeis University.

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