Acts of Logos in Pushkin and Gogol: Petersburg Texts and Subtexts

Acts of Logos in Pushkin and Gogol: Petersburg Texts and Subtexts


Kathleen Scollins

Series: Liber Primus
ISBN: 9781618115829 (hardcover)
Pages: 330 pp.; 6 illus.
Publication date: July 2017

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Acts of Logos examines the 19th-century foundations of St. Petersburg’s famous literary heritage, with a focus on the unifying principle of material animation. Ever since Pushkin’s 1833 poem The Bronze Horseman, the city has provided a literary space in which inanimate things (noses, playing cards, overcoats) spring to life. Scollins’s book addresses this issue of animacy by analyzing the powerful function of language in the city’s literature, from its mythic origins—in which the tsar Peter appears as a God-like creator, calling his city forth from nothing—to the earliest texts of its literary tradition, when poets took up the pen to commit their own acts of verbal creation. Her interpretations shed new light on the canonical works of Pushkin and Gogol, exposing the performative and subversive possibilities of the poetic word in the Petersburg tradition, and revealing an emerging literary culture capable of challenging the official narratives of the state.

Kathleen Scollins is an assistant professor at the University of Vermont, where she teaches Russian language and literature in the Department of German and Russian.


In this extensive, interesting new study of the collective literary output we know as the Petersburg text, Kathleen Scollins seeks to redirect an extensive critical debate to the linguistic register. … Through extensive discussion of biblical and historical contexts, as well as through consideration of the tension between orality and writing in the tradition of texts about St. Petersburg, Scollins has written a compelling and persuasive reevaluation of familiar texts. The book should prove useful to a broad audience of undergraduate and graduate students with an interest in literary representations of St. Petersburg and the evolution of the Russian canon.
— Ani Kokobobo, University of Kansas, the Slavic Review Vol. 78, No. 1
Kathleen Scollins’ spirited, innovative engagement with the ‘Petersburg theme’ takes on highly canonical texts and yet says new and interesting things about them, providing among other things a sustained reading of Gogol’s complex Petersburg tales. She argues that Peter’s reforms divorced Russian representation from its typical Orthodox focus on the visual and aural, instead allying it to a Western focus on Logos, the word. This led literature to predominate in St. Petersburg, its might unleashing the representational power to shape the idea of the city itself, in the process giving rise to literary figures who themselves attempted to harness the power of the word.
— Katya Hokanson, University of Oregon


Table of Contents

Prologue: In the Beginning Was Peter’s Word
Introduction: St. Petersburg
          Myth, Text, Word
1. Cursing at the Whirlwind
          The Book of Job according to Pushkin
2. Gambling Away the Petri-mony
          Rival Models of Social Advancement in Pushkin’s “The Queen of Spades”
3. Body Parts, Puff Pastries, and the Devil Himself
          Nevsky Prospect as the Hellmouth of Gogol’s Petersburg
4. Mertvye ushi
          The Annunciation Motif and Disorder of the Senses in “The Nose”
5. Kako sdelan Akakii
          Letter as Hero in “The Overcoat”
Conclusion: Beyond the Schism
Works Cited