Through the opaque veil
Rhe Gothic and death in Russian realism
in The Gothic and death
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This chapter examines nineteenth-century Russian writers who drew on the Gothic in order to explore the experience of death, existential terror, and the possibility of an afterlife within the bounds of literary realism. In Turgenev’s story Bezhin Meadow and Chekhov’s sketch A Dead Body, Gothic language and imagery create a narrative frame that contextualizes an encounter between peasants and a traveller focused around a discussion of death. This chapter argues that the Gothic is juxtaposed with folk belief in these works, to underscore that both the peasants’ dvoeverie and educated Russia’s interest in natural sciences, materialist philosophy, and the pseudo-science of spiritualism represent attempts to systematise and explain the unknown. The Gothic mediates the tension between science and faith, the irrational and the prosaic, and the abject and the mysterious, while allowing these ruminations to remain ambiguously unfinalised for the reader.

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