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Notes Towards a Spectropoetics of Ghosts and Ghostliness
Neil Cornwell

Gothic Studies
A comparative study
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This book takes four stories by the Russian Romantic author Vladimir Odoevsky to illustrate ‘pathways’, developed further by subsequent writers, into modern fiction. Featured here are: the artistic (musical story), the rise of science fiction, psychic aspects of the detective story and of confession in the novel. The four chapters also examine the development of the featured categories by a wide range of subsequent writers in fiction ranging from the Romantic period up to the present century. The study works backwards from Odoevsky's stories, noting respective previous examples or traditions, before proceeding to follow the ‘pathways’ observed into later Russian, English and comparative fiction.

Author:

This book offers a comprehensive account of the absurd in prose fiction. As well as providing a basis for courses on absurdist literature (whether in fiction or in drama), it offers a broadly based philosophical background. Sections covering theoretical approaches and an overview of the historical literary antecedents to the ‘modern’ absurd introduce the largely twentieth-century core chapters. In addition to discussing a variety of literary movements (from Surrealism to the Russian OBERIU), the book offers detailed case studies of four prominent exponents of the absurd: Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, Daniil Kharms and Flann O'Brien. There is also wide discussion of other English-language and European contributors to the phenomenon of the absurd.

Neil Cornwell

'Russian Gothic' as a term has only recently begun to enjoy any real currency in critical studies of Russian literature. Gothic novels did occasionally achieve publication in Russian translation in the later part of the Soviet era. There is now, in post-Soviet Russia, a 'Gothic novel' series emanating from the Moscow publisher 'Terra'. Even the anthology entitled Russian 19th-century Gothic Tales, compiled by Valentin Korovin and published in Moscow in 1984, however, seems to have acquired that title for its English-language edition by chance. Russian Gothic can be said to derive principally from an amalgam of European influences: the English Gothic novel, the tales of Hoffmann, the French fantastique and frenetique traditions, and the various schools of European idealist and esoteric thought.

in European Gothic
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Neil Cornwell

This chapter notes how the book developed and introduces the themes of the study. The project grew largely from comparative and Russian literature, from work on Vladimir Odoevsky. This work developed to involve biographical research, criticism and translation. Such tentative beginnings were driven into some sort of initial focus by an entirely fortuitous invitation from a publisher to supply an introduction to a reprint of a valuable and neglected edition of Odoevsky's ‘Romantic Tales’. The four titular figures introduced here are being used towards an at least partial tracing of certain European literary developments, or ‘pathways’ into modern fiction.

in Odoevsky’s four pathways into modern fiction
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The musical-artistic story from Hoffmann and Odoevsky to Pasternak
Neil Cornwell

This chapter investigates the musical story through Odoevsky's fictional ‘biography’ of Johann Sebastian Bach, and preceding works, particularly in the writings of E.T.A. Hoffmann. It aims to examine an early prose work by Boris Pasternak, his Suboctave Story (written in 1916–17, but first published only in 1977). Pasternak's never quite completed novella, this chapter argues, may be dependent to a considerable extent on Odoevsky's depiction of the young Bach and his creation of musical atmosphere.

in Odoevsky’s four pathways into modern fiction
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The rise of the ‘cosmic traveller’
Neil Cornwell

This chapter examines the motif of round-the-world flight, and the impact on surrounding society of the quirks of a single life, in Odoevsky's tale The Live Corpse. It is seen to be developed into what purports to be interplanetary flight. The chapter also examines the rise and fall of a civilisation, in Dostoevsky's late story The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. Particulars of such supposed cosmic travel may have been, in part at least, ‘borrowed’ by his successors from Dostoevsky. However this may be, such things are seen to be taken very much further, in twentieth-century English horror and science fiction writing, in key works by William Hope Hodgson and Olaf Stapledon.

in Odoevsky’s four pathways into modern fiction
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The rise of the psychic detective
Neil Cornwell

This chapter notes early detective fiction in works by Schiller, Hoffmann and Poe, prior to an examination of the figure of the uncle in Odoevsky's The Salamander—this personage here being proposed as a proto-‘psychic doctor’. The discussion considers examples of such a figure, in Anglo-Irish and English literature up to the Edwardian era. It assesses works by Sheridan Le Fanu, Bram Stoker, Algernon Blackwood and, again, Hodgson. Such a protagonist is then seen to recede, in the main into a more parodic treatment. A concluding section notes the reappearance at least of such motifs in recent ‘metaphysical detective’ fiction.

in Odoevsky’s four pathways into modern fiction
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Duelling confession within the novel
Neil Cornwell

This chapter notes Odoevsky's story The Witness as an important source for certain events in the autobiographical confession of the Elder Zosima in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. it also considers Alessandro Manzoni's The Betrothed. These three works contribute to a considerably wider ensuing discussion of the ‘confessional’ motif in modern fiction, going back to the Gothic period and extending into the present century.

in Odoevsky’s four pathways into modern fiction
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Neil Cornwell

This chapter looks briefly at some of the ‘pathways’ within, and to, a fairly recent prizewinning novel, published in 1995 and written by a Russian, Andreï Makine, who writes only in French and has been resident in France since 1987. A curiously bi-cultural novel, of a pseudo-autobiographical nature, Le Testament français contains at least traces of the pathways explored in the present study. It also includes, of course, striking features of its own, such as waves which stem from war literature, or from what people might designate the fiction of sadomasochism. Post-war provincial Soviet life doubles, and alternates, with the Paris of la belle époque and an aspiration to revel in and revive a fin de siècle style of French prose. In diverse ways, France links with Russia, as does Siberia with Cherbourg.

in Odoevsky’s four pathways into modern fiction