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Neurasthenia in the life and work of Leonid Andreev

By the first decade of the twentieth century, Russia was experiencing a decadent period of cultural degeneration. Simultaneous with this artistic response, science was developing ways to identify medical conditions that supposedly reflected the health of the entire nation. Leonid Andreev (1871–1919), the leading literary figure of his time, stepped into the breech of this scientific discourse with literary works about degenerates. The spirited social debates on mental illness, morality and sexual deviance which resulted from these works became part of the ongoing battle over the definition and depiction of the irrational, complicated by Andreev’s own publicized bouts with neurasthenia. Specific to the study is the way in which Andreev readily accepted and incorporated scientific conjecture into his cultural production and how these works were in turn cited by medical authorities as confirmation of their theories, creating a circular argument. This book demonstrates the implications of scientific discourse on Russian concepts of mental illness and national health. It examines the concept of pathology in Russia, the influence of European medical discourse, the development of Russian psychiatry, and the role that it had on popular culture by investigating the life and works of Andreev. Although widely discussed in its European context, degeneration theory has not been afforded the same scholarly attention in Russian cultural studies. As a result, this study extends and challenges scholarship on the Russian fin de siècle, the emergence of psychiatry as a new medical science, and the role that art played in the development of this objective science.

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Writing in the margins of Modernism

Eccentric creative consciousness is marked by the many contradictions inherent in being cast on the margins of paradoxically marginocentric geo-cultural sites. This book seeks to bring greater clarity to discrete urbane architectonics of modernist literature within a distended Western (including Slavic and Latin American) tradition. It traces different slants of the rational plane in modernist fictions by rupturing, deconstructing and reconstructing consciousness along differently temporalized and spatialized axes respectively aligned with concentric and eccentric cultural construction. The book redefines some of the dimensions, dynamics, creative capacities and critical contributions of discrete literary modernisms - concentric, but especially, eccentric. A distinction is made between pathologically memoried and mad (particularly manic and paranoid schizophrenic) modes of cultural consciousness, concentrated in reflexive citytexts respectively located at the centre of European modernism. The book re-examines the development of literal and literary landscapes underpinning paranoid schizophrenic constructions of eccentric consciousness in Nikolai Gogol's and Fyodor Dostoevsky's Petersburg tales and Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis's Rio narratives. It reconsiders these works as critical and creative responses to urbane European genres as well as earlier strains of Russian and Brazilian literary and artistic representation. The book focuses on eccentric consciousnesses framing the hallucinated cities drawn by writers including Andrei Bely, Mario de Andrade, Mikhail Bulgakov, Osman Lins, Clarice Lispector and Liudmila Petrushevskaya.