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From the Elegy to the End of the Novel: Literary Experiences of Emotion


Focusing primarily on Russian literature of the nineteenth century, this dissertation explores the dynamic structures of emotional experience that are embodied in and communicated by literary works. Moving from early nineteenth-century elegies, to Pushkin's novel-in-verse, and to exemplary mature novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, the dissertation concludes with the so-called "crisis of the novel" of the 1920s, seen from the perspectives of both Russia and England. Appealing selectively to work on emotions by literary critics, sociologists and philosophers, this dissertation is a contribution to the study of genre and narrative, as well as the individual works it treats.

The chapters are united by their concern for the particular kinds of emotional experience (hope, embarrassment, desire, empathy) that are articulated by literary means. At the conceptual core of this study is the novel: I show how the representation of emotion in the elegy in the 1800s-1820s produces forms of temporality and sociality that ultimately support the novelistic configuration of author - character - reader through what I call the circulation of feeling. Moving to the high point of the Russian novel in the 1870s, I explore the narrative shapes and textures created by emotions--embarrassment in Dostoevsky's The Idiot and by desire in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. The final chapter discusses the "crisis of the novel" in the 1920s, and shows how, in the face of weakened characters and erased plots, the essential configuration of author - character - reader is reinvented by two readers of Tolstoy, the scholar Boris Eikhenbaum and the English novelist Virginia Woolf. Woolf's modernist novel, To the Lighthouse, and Eikhenbaum's scholarly monograph, Lev Tolstoy: The Fifties, discover new ways to keep author, character and reader linked in circuits of emotional connection.

Since the works I study form an arc that stretches from the first years of the nineteenth century to the first decades of the twentieth, I aim to show how emotions in a literary text function as powerful impulses and structural principles which become wedded to the movement of literary history.

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