Frederick H. White
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in Degeneration, decadence and disease in the Russian fin de siècle
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By reopening the fourth line of critical discourse, I have attempted to re-examine Andreev’s literary output in light of his personal and medical history. In doing this, the primary goal was to confront and, possibly refute, the Soviet biography of the author that has dominated discussions of Andreev since the 1960s. Specifically, in addressing why it might be that Andreev was so interested in the theme of madness and how this influenced his literary career, I have touched upon many of the issues that have remained unanswered by scholars. Although there will always be differing opinions, Andreev’s experience with neurasthenia (specifically depression and anxiety) offer keys to understanding his personal life (drinking binges, mood swings, romantic endeavors) and literary themes (performance, institutional spaces, illness narrative). In so doing, I have attempted to show how this might then alter our understanding of Andreev’s literary allegiances (realist or symbolist), how his literary works interacted with the popular science of the day (degeneration theory) and why this interaction may be the key to Andreev’s immense success during his lifetime. Granted, each one of these issues could warrant its own study, but the purpose of this book was to reopen the line of discourse for further discussion of Andreev and his time. In this concluding chapter, the intention is to outline new ways of interpreting Andreev’s life and works in order to encourage future scholarly investigations that go beyond the author presented by Soviet scholars to satisfy the demands of the post-/Soviet literary market and to be candid about the role that neurasthenia played in his life and works.

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Degeneration, decadence and disease in the Russian fin de siècle

Neurasthenia in the life and work of Leonid Andreev


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