Critical Insights: Russia's Golden Age Review

“Stauffer (Ferrum College) collects in this volume original and reprinted contributions to the history of Russian literature and culture, with an emphasis on the nineteenth century, or the “Golden Age of Russian Literature.” Written by a diverse group of international scholars, the texts are grouped into two categories: the first one provides a historical and cultural background of nineteenth-century Russian thought and literature, while the second one offers critical essays on a wide range of Russian authors and topics, including Pushkin, Lermontov, Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Russian literary Orientalism, and the music debates of the age. Although the book is intended mostly for advanced scholars of Russian literature and culture, the editor also provides the reader with primer introductions to the topic. Given the diversity of scholarly approaches and topics, the unity of the volume is only partly achieved under the umbrella-term “Golden Age,” a term whose chronology is still under dispute. However, given the recent decline of Russian literary studies in the world of literary scholarship, the volume succeeds in reminding the reader of the importance of nineteenth-century Russian literature and culture not only for literary historians but for scholars of literature everywhere. In a manner reminiscent of the works of Isaiah Berlin or Vladimir Nabokov, the essays collected here combine meaningful historical and cultural contextualization with literary analysis, offering valuable insights into the complex world of nineteenth-century Russia, a world torn between East and West.”