Literary scholars largely agree that the Romantic period altered the definition of tragedy, but they have confined their analyses to Western European authors. Maksim Hanukai introduces a new, illuminating figure to this narrative, arguing that Russia’s national poet, Alexander Pushkin, can be understood as a tragic Romantic poet, although in a different mold than his Western counterparts.
Many of Pushkin’s works move seamlessly between the closed world of traditional tragedy and the open world of Romantic tragic drama, and yet they follow neither the cathartic program prescribed by Aristotle nor the redemptive mythologies of the Romantics. Instead, the idiosyncratic and artistically mercurial Pushkin seized upon the newly unstable tragic mode to develop multiple, overlapping tragic visions. Providing new, innovative readings of such masterpieces as The Gypsies, Boris Godunov, The Little Tragedies, and The Bronze Horseman, Hanukai sheds light on an unexplored aspect of Pushkin’s work, while also challenging reigning theories about the fate of tragedy in the Romantic period.
Maksim Hanukai is an assistant professor of German, Nordic, and Slavic studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
“Lucidly written and energetically argued, Tragic Encounters attends to significant theoretical questions, compellingly reconstructs important historical moments in Alexander Pushkin’s poetic career, and, most importantly, carefully and brilliantly reinterprets four of Pushkin’s canonical texts. A fine contribution to scholarship on Pushkin, Romanticism, and the tragic mode.”—Luba Golburt, author of The First Epoch: The Eighteenth Century and the Russian Cultural Imagination
“Whenever Pushkin touched a genre or literary tradition, he transformed it—and European Romanticism provided a cornucopia of hybrids to work with. Maksim Hanukai shows how Russia’s healthiest, most resilient poet opened up mind-expanding visions of the tragic. Again we realize Pushkin’s lonely placement among Europe’s great poets: he could work magic on them, they could not read him at all.”—Caryl Emerson, Princeton University
“Hanukai’s ambitious book exposes Pushkin's manifold connections not only with contemporary European literature but with intellectual debates and moral concerns that underscored the evolution of the European cultural world during its transition from the late Enlightenment to Romanticism. It establishes Pushkin’s oeuvre as an integral part of early nineteenth-century European culture.”—Boris Gasparov, Columbia University
“Very highly recommended for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the life and work of Alexander Pushkin.”—Midwest Book Review