Between two worlds : the fairy-tale novels of Aleksandr Fomich Vel'tman
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Between Two Worlds: The Fairy-Tale Novels of Aleksandr Fomich Vel'tman is a thesis devoted to four of the author’s novels published during the 1830s and 1840s: Koshchei bessmertnyi (1833), Svetoslavich, vrazhii pitomets (1835), Serdtse i Dumka (1838) and Novyi Emelia, ili Prevrashcheniia (1845). It argues for the typological unity of these works based on their prominent use of fairy-tale structures and motifs, and analyses them against the backdrop of their nineteenth-century context, relating them to the emergence and development of the ‘Romantic fairy tale’ as a literary genre throughout Europe and to the philosophical and intellectual environment in which they were written. The thesis thereby seeks to posit these novels as a unique, yet nevertheless organic, response to contemporary aesthetic issues and trends and to challenge dominant perceptions of Vel’tman’s fiction as idiosyncratic and unapproachable. The title itself, Between Two Worlds, reflects the two trajectories of investigation that the thesis will endeavour to pursue: the paradigmatic, in an analysis of the interplay of fairy-tale and mimetic elements within the texts, and the diachronic, in viewing how this interplay changes over the course of the novels against the backdrop of the broader aesthetic evolution from Romanticism to Critical Realism in Russian letters. After establishing a typological model for the volshebnaia skazka it will argue that the form is employed in these four works as a discourse of the self, and serves to actualize the relationship between the individual and the world, the ideal and the real. Employing a methodology that draws on various psychoanalytical models it will discuss how, in contemporary theory, the fairy tale can be read symbolically as a discourse of personal development to meaningful interaction with the surrounding world. Subsequently, it will proceed to show how Vel’tman’s use of the form in his novelistic creations self-consciously problematizes this basic idea, as the fairy tale is alternately presented as facilitator of, and obstacle to, such growth. It will analyse in particular how these novels suggest different readings of the fairy tale and, through a comparison with other generic systems, different conceptions of its potential truth. Ultimately, it will argue that the ambiguity of the fairy tale in these works stems from its dual status as both symbolic discourse and cultural artefact, and that they are as much ‘novels about fairy tales’ as they are ‘fairy-tale novels’.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: Print and electronic copy restricted until 22nd May 2019
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations
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