Skip to content
March 30, 2015 / Irene2468

Online Summer Workshops for Teens – The Government Inspector and 19th Century Russian Supernatural Stories

I am offering two workshops this summer for teens, Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector and 19th Century Russian Supernatural Stories. Summer workshops are a great way to try an online literature class for a first-timer. I invite you to email me as soon as possible if you’d like to be a part of the scheduling process. We’ll meet twice in July to discuss The Government Inspector, and three times in August for 19th Century Russian Supernatural Stories. Registration will begin on May 15, 2015.

The Government Inspecor, Pyotr Boklevsky, 1869

Pyotr Boklevsky, 1869

The Government Inspector is the funniest Russian comedy. Gogol rejects traditional devices such as the love interest, the conventional happy ending, the character that is the author’s mouthpiece, and the commedia dell’arte type of role development. Instead, he creates more complex, living characters that combine both typical and individual traits and refuses to divide them into good and bad. Most of them are rogues but all display a mixture of qualities. This comedy, both in its characterization and in its language, is much nearer to real life than any previous Russian play. We will discover how Gogol reduces the disharmony – which seems to him the very essence of reality – to comic grotesque through laughter. In this, Gogol anticipated the Western European theater of the absurd of Ionesco and Beckett.

Illustration to Gogol’s “Viy” by Edward Novikov

Illustration to Gogol’s “Viy” by Edward Novikov

For 19th Century Russian Supernatural Stories, we’ll read four fine Russian supernatural tales – Gogol’s “Viy” and “Overcoat,” Turgenev’s “Clara Milich,”and Chekhov’s “The Black Monk.” In 19th century Russia, Gothic stories and the tales of the uncanny were as popular as they were in Western Europe. Russian supernatural stories differ in their ability to add humorous, grotesque, and realistic elements to the romantic Gothic framework.

Gogol’s “Viy,” a fantastic story set in Ukraine, is an effective and frightening horror tale that treats the supernatural as the underlying motive of human affairs. Gogol’s “Overcoat” has been frequently interpreted as a masterpiece of humanitarian realism, but it is also an ambiguous ghost story and a parable. As Nabokov famously says in his Lectures on Russian Literature, “Gogol’s The Overcoat is a grotesque and grim nightmare making black holes in the dim pattern of life.” Turgenev in “Clara Milich” and Chekhov in “The Black Monk” turn to the romantic tradition to investigate the literary possibilities of the unconscious and the irrational, achieving remarkable insight into the human mind.