Spaces of Creativity: Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts

Spaces of Creativity: Essays on Russian Literature and the Arts


Ksana Blank

Series: Studies in Russian and Slavic Literatures, Cultures, and History
ISBN: 9781618115409 (hardcover)
Pages: 160 pp.; 3 b&w illus.; 13 color illus.
Publication Date: November 2016

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In the six essays of this book, Ksana Blank examines affinities among works of nineteenth and twentieth-century Russian literature and their connections to the visual arts and music. Blank demonstrates that the borders of authorial creativity are not stable and absolute, that talented artists often transcend the classifications and paradigms established by critics. Featured in the volume are works by Alexander Pushkin, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Vladimir Nabokov, Daniil Kharms, Kazimir Malevich, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, and Dmitri Shostakovich.

Ksana Blank is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University. She is the author of Dostoevsky’s Dialectics and the Problem of Sin (2010).

Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration and Translation


Chapter 1. Sex, Crime, and Railroads in Dostoevsky’s Idiot and Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata
Chapter 2. “Horror—Red, White, and Square”: Abstract Images in Tolstoy
Chapter 3. Dobuzhinsky’s Farewell to Petersburg
Chapter 4. Praising the Name: The Religious Theme in Daniil Kharms
Chapter 5. Nabokov’s Nymphet and Pushkin’s Water-Nymph
Chapter 6. Captain Lebyadkin’s Poetry in Shostakovich and Dostoevsky



As a collection of thoughtful essays on the ostensibly ‘peripheral’ themes of several major authors, Blank’s volume should hold interest for literary scholars in a number of fields, and it would also serve well as a textbook for interdisciplinary surveys of modern Russian literature.
— Jefferson Gatrall, Montclair State University, The Russian Review (Vol. 77, No. 1)
An interdisciplinary creative space is a complex thing. It is home not only to plot, language, structure, but also to whole worlds. In this provocative collection of essays, Ksana Blank shows us some unexpected corners of these worlds: the great Realist novelists shunning the railroad, Shostakovich finding poetry in Dostoevsky, the absurdist Kharms weighing in on a religious controversy, Dobuzhinsky becoming a visual chronicler of Petersburg, Tolstoy anticipating the thinking of Malevich, and Nabokov’s nymphet drowning in Pushkinian subtexts. Works we know by heart are estranged and refreshed by these resourceful angles of vision.
— Caryl Emerson, Princeton University
Addressing the minor themes in great writers, Ksana Blank demonstrates her talent for telling fascinating stories with surprising conclusions. She achieves the effect of theoretical estrangement: what seemed all too familiar in Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky or Nabokov, reveals its paradoxical side. This book shows that the art of defamiliarization is no less important for literary studies than for literature itself.
— Mikhail Epstein, Emory University