Northern Illinois University Press

Moral Apostasy in Russian Literature

George J.  Gutsche

Moral Apostasy in Russian Literature is a study of classic works by Russian writers who faced repressive Tsarist or Soviet censorship and control. Each work carries a moral authority and prestige that come from challenging authority and enduring the consequences of that challenge.

Gutsche's study goes beyond issues of state oppression, however. Arguing that each work must be seen first and foremost as an imaginatively ordered and consciously controlled artistic creation, he offers new readings of the six texts. He takes as his starting point the theme of moral apostasy—the situation in which the author or his characters reject reigning values and conventional morality, appealing in their rejection of the status quo to some higher moral code. Closely examining the moral apostasy inherent in the rejection of conventional morality, Gutsche identifies the specific moral issues generated in each work. These issues involve the difficulty of maintaining one's personal integrity under conditions of extreme physical or psychological stress, sustaining one's relationship to another, and authentically facing the inevitability of one's own death.

After identifying these specific moral issues as they appear in the six works, Gutsche shows how each text presents challenges to moral commonplaces and conventional views. Such challenges lead to the questioning of one's values, an insight into the nature of those values, and a basis for the creation of new values. Gutsche then presents compelling reinterpretations of the works. His interpretation of human conduct in morally problematic situations becomes moral criticism, and Gutsche's study is the paradigm of this methodology.

(1986) 197 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-118-6
cloth $33.00

George Gutsche is a professor of Russian in the Foreign Languages and Literatures Department at Northern Illinois University.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Moral Isses in a Literary Context
Chapter 2: Pushkin's The Bronze Horseman
Chapter 3: Turgenev's On the Eve
Chapter 4: Tolstoi's "The Death of Ivan Il'ich"
Chapter 5: Gor'kii's "Twenty-six and One"
Chapter 6: Pasternak's "Summer"
Chapter 7: Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-118-6
cloth $33.00