Rank and Style: Russians in State Service, Life, and Literature

Rank and Style: Russians in State Service, Life, and Literature


Irina Reyfman

Series: Ars Rossica
ISBN: 9781936235513 (hardcover)
Pages: 330 pp.
Publication Date: February 2012

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Rank and Style is a collection of essays by Irina Reyfman, a leading scholar of Russian literature and culture. Ranging in topic from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, the essays focus on the interaction of life and literature. In the first part, Reyfman examines how obligatory state service and the Table of Ranks shaped Russian writers’ view of themselves as professionals, raising questions about whether the existence of the rank system prompted the development of specifically Russian types of literary discourse. The sections that follow bring together articles on Pushkin, writer and man, as seen by himself and others, essays on Leo Tolstoy, and other aspects of Russian literary and cultural history. In addition to examining little studied writers and works, Rank and Style offers new approaches to well-studied literary personalities and texts.

Irina Reyfman (PhD Stanford University) is a professor of Russian Literature at Columbia University. In her studies, Dr. Reyfman focuses on the interaction of literature and culture: how literature reflects cultural phenomena and how it contributes to the formation of cultural biases and forms of behavior. Dr. Reyfman is the author of Vasilii Trediakovsky: The Fool of the "New" Russian Literature (Stanford, 1990) and Ritualized Violence Russian Style: The Duel in Russian Culture and Literature (Stanford, 1999; also in Russian, Moscow: NLO, 2002). She is also a co-editor (with Catherine T. Nepomnyashchy and Hilde Hoogenboom) of Mapping the Feminine: Russian Women and Cultural Difference (Bloomington, IN: Slavica, 2008).

[The essays here] are gathered under a title so all-embracing as to encompass the extraordinary range of the author’s engagement with Russian cultural history, from the philosophical concerns of eighteenth-century poetry to the rituals of dueling. . . but including too the pervasive influence of class and chin, sexual mores, codes of honour, attitudes to death and madness, and much else besides.
— John McNair, University of Queensland, in Canadian Slavonic Papers, Vol. LV, Nos. 1-2, March-June 2013
Overall, this is an excellent volume that will have something to offer a variety of readers. . . . the quality of the scholarship remains high throughout.
— John Ellison, independent scholar; review published in the Slavic and East European Journal, 57.3 (Fall 2013)
[Reyfman’s] insights are always well grounded, perceptive and productive. The present selection is an impressive testimony to her range and conviction that a sympathetic understanding of the social framework underpinning Russian noble culture enriches our appreciation of Russian literature.
— W. Gareth Jones, Bangor University; in the Slavonic & East European Review, 91, 3, July 2013

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Note on Transliteration

1. Writing, Ranks, and the Eighteenth-Century Russian Gentry Experience
2. What Makes a Gentleman? Revisiting Gogol’s “Notes of a Madman” 
3. Writing and the Anxiety of Rank: Pushkin’s Prose Fiction
4. Pushkin the Kammerherr: On Pushkin’s Social Reputation in the 1830s
5. Poetic Justice and Injustice: Autobiographical Echoes in Pushkin’s The Captain’s Daughter"
6. Kammerjunker in “Notes of a Madman”: Gogol’s View of Pushkin
7. Death and Mutilation at the Dueling Site: Pushkin’s Death as a National Spectacle
8. The Sixth Tale of Belkin: Mikhail Zoshchenko as Proteus
Part Three: TOLSTOY
9. Turgenev’s “Death” and Tolstoy’s “Three Deaths” 
10. Female Voice and Male Gaze in Leo Tolstoy’s Family Happiness
11. Tolstoy and Gogol: “Notes of a Madman” 
12. Tolstoy the Wanderer and the Quest for Adequate Expression
13. Alexey Rzhevsky, Russian Mannerist
14. Imagery of Time and Eternity in Eighteenth-Century Russian Poetry: Mikhail Murav’ev and Semyon Bobrov
15. Dishonor by Flogging and Restoration by Dancing: Leskov’s Response to Dostoevsky

List of Illustrations