Epic and the Russian Novel from Gogol to Pasternak examines the origin of the nineteen- century Russian novel and challenges the Lukacs-Bakhtin theory of epic. By removing the Russian novel from its European context, the authors reveal that it developed as a means of reconnecting the narrative form with its origins in classical and Christian epic in a way that expressed the Russian desire to renew and restore ancient spirituality. Through this methodology, Griffiths and Rabinowitz dispute Bakhtin's classification of epic as a monophonic and dead genre whose time has passed. Due to its grand themes and cultural centrality, the epic is the form most suited to newcomers or cultural outsiders seeking legitimacy through appropriation of the past. Through readings of Gogol's Dead Souls-a uniquely problematic work, and one which Bakhtin argued was novelistic rather than epic-Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov, Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago, and Tolstoy's War and Peace, this book redefines "epic" and how we understand the sweep of Russian literature as a whole.
Frederick Griffiths (Ph.D. Harvard University) is Class of 1880 Professor of Greek and Professor of Women's and Gender Studies, Amherst College. His primary focus has focused on relationship of literature and politics in Hellenistic Alexandria (Theocritus and Apollonius Rhodius), 19th and 20th century Russian (with S. J. Rabinowitz: Gogol, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pasternak), and 20th century America (Willa Cather, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Charles Johnson). He is the author of Theocritus at Court: Articles on Apollonius Rhodius, Willa Cather, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison.
Stanley J. Rabinowitz (Ph.D. Harvard University) teaches Russian language and literature at Amherst College. He has taught at the University of California at Berkeley and has been the Max Hayward Fellow in Russian Literature at St. Antony's College, Oxford. His research interests include modern Russian prose and Russian classical dance during the first quarter of the twentieth century.