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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Drama in Disguise: Dramatic Modes of Narration and Textual Structure in the Mid-Nineteenth-Century Russian Novel

  • Author(s): Wiggins, Kathleen Cameron
  • Advisor(s): Paperno, Irina
  • et al.

My dissertation investigates the generic interplay between the textual forms of drama and the novel during the 1850s, a fertile "middle ground" for the Russian novel, positioned between the works of Pushkin, Lermontov, and Gogol and the psychological realist novel of the 1860s and 70s. My study begins with Turgenev's Rudin (1856) and then considers Goncharov's Oblomov (1859) and Dostoevsky's Siberian novellas (1859), concluding with an examination of how the use of drama evolved in one of the "great novels" of the 1860s, Tolstoy's Voina i mir (War and Peace, 1865-69). Drawing upon both novel and drama theory, my dissertation seeks to identify the specific elements of the dramatic form employed by these nineteenth-century novelists, including dramatic dialogue and gesture, construction of enclosed stage-like spaces, patterns of movement and stasis, expository strategies, and character and plot construction. Each chapter examines a particular combination of these dramatic narrative strategies in order to pinpoint the distinct ways in which the form of the drama aided writers in their attempts to create a mature Russian novel. I also address the ways in which both characters and narrators discuss and make reference to drama and theatricality, revealing their ambivalence toward a genre and expressive mode in which they themselves participate. Finally, my dissertation traces a trajectory in the use of dramatic modes of narrative throughout the decade of the 1850s; while Turgenev, Goncharov, and Dostoevsky foreground their use of drama, Tolstoy strives to place his under disguise. As a whole, my dissertation seeks to add to our understanding of the enigmatic rise of the Russian novel in the nineteenth century by illuminating the importance of the dramatic form in this process.

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