Ghostly Paradoxes: Modern Spiritualism and Russian Culture in the Age of Realism

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The culture of nineteenth-century Russia is often seen as dominated by realism in the arts, as exemplified by the novels of Leo Tolstoy and Ivan Turgenev, the paintings of ‘the Wanderers,’ and the historical operas of Modest Mussorgsky. Paradoxically, nineteenth-century Russia was also consumed with a passion for spiritualist activities such as table-rappings, seances of spirit communication, and materialization of the ‘spirits.’ Ghostly Paradoxesexamines the surprising relationship between spiritualist beliefs and practices and the positivist mindset of the Russian Age of Realism (1850-80) to demonstrate the ways in which the two disparate movements influenced each other.

Foregrounding the important role that nineteenth-century spiritualism played in the period’s aesthetic, ideological, and epistemological debates, Ilya Vinitsky challenges literary scholars who have considered spiritualism to be archaic and peripheral to other cultural issues of the time. Ghostly Paradoxes is an innovative work of literary scholarship that traces the reactions of Russia’s major realist authors to spiritualist events and doctrines and demonstrates that both movements can be understood only when examined together.

Review

‘Vinitsky has skillfully integrated cultural phenomenon and shown how they touched upon the deep questions of faith, the soul and immorality that continued to reverberate among those segments of Russian society and writers, who refused to capitulate to the pressure of materialism. This book will be most welcome by those interested in Russian Realism, cultural studies, and Russian spiritualism.’ -George Mihaychuk, Canadian Slavonic Papers, vol 52:1-2:2010 

‘This fascinating study of Russian spiritualism in the second half of the nineteenth century will alter the way we look at the Russian “Realist Period.” Neither endorsing nor ridiculing these controversial parlor practices, Ilya Vinitsky demonstrates how they satisfied cultural needs that were compelling, real, and of passionate interest to the greatest writers. His impeccably researched book will be of great value to students of the nineteenth-century novel as well as to scholars of various disciplines studying the Russian late-imperial era.’ -Caryl Emerson, Slavic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University 

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Description

The culture of nineteenth-century Russia is often seen as dominated by realism in the arts, as exemplified by the novels of Leo Tolstoy and Ivan Turgenev, the paintings of ‘the Wanderers,’ and the historical operas of Modest Mussorgsky. Paradoxically, nineteenth-century Russia was also consumed with a passion for spiritualist activities such as table-rappings, seances of spirit communication, and materialization of the ‘spirits.’ Ghostly Paradoxes examines the surprising relationship between spiritualist beliefs and practices and the positivist mindset of the Russian Age of Realism (1850-80) to demonstrate the ways in which the two disparate movements influenced each other.

Foregrounding the important role that nineteenth-century spiritualism played in the period’s aesthetic, ideological, and epistemological debates, Ilya Vinitsky challenges literary scholars who have considered spiritualism to be archaic and peripheral to other cultural issues of the time. Ghostly Paradoxes is an innovative work of literary scholarship that traces the reactions of Russia’s major realist authors to spiritualist events and doctrines and demonstrates that both movements can be understood only when examined together.

Additional information

Weight554 g
Dimensions15.8 × 2.4 × 23.7 cm

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