The University of Wisconsin Press

Slavic Studies / History / Literature & Criticism


Novel and City, 1900-1921
Edited by Olga Matich

“Redefines not only the phenomenal presence of Saint Petersburg as city but also the modern city’s impact on the creation of new kinds of narrative.”
—John E. Bowlt, author of Moscow & St. Petersburg 1900–1920

Since its founding three hundred years ago, the city of Saint Petersburg has captured the imaginations of the most celebrated Russian writers, whose characters map the city by navigating its streets from the aristocratic center to the gritty outskirts. While Tsar Peter the Great planned the streetscapes of Russia’s northern capital as a contrast to the muddy and crooked streets of Moscow, Andrei Bely’s novel Petersburg (1916), a cornerstone of Russian modernism and the culmination of the “Petersburg myth” in Russian culture, takes issue with the city’s premeditated and supposedly rational character in the early twentieth century.

Petersburg”/Petersburg studies the book and the city against and through each other. It begins with new readings of the novel—as a detective story inspired by bomb-throwing terrorists, as a representation of the aversive emotion of disgust, and as a painterly avant-garde text—stressing the novel’s phantasmagoric and apocalyptic vision of the city. Taking a cue from Petersburg’s narrator, the rest of this volume (and the companion Web site, explores the city from vantage points that have not been considered before—from its streetcars and iconic art-nouveau office buildings to the slaughterhouse on the city fringes. From poetry and terrorist memoirs, photographs and artwork, maps and guidebooks of that period, the city emerges as a living organism, a dreamworld in flux, and a junction of modernity and modernism.

"The four narratives in this volume, none of which have previously been translated into English, offer a wide variety of first-person perspectives on serfdom. The narratives are fascinating in their own right; the addition of the wide-ranging introduction and thorough historical notes make Four Serf Narratives an important volume for anyone interested in the study of unfree labor.”— Anne Hruska, Slavic and East European Journal Summer 2011

Olga Matich is professor of Russian literature and culture at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Erotic Utopia: The Decadent Imagination in Russia’s Fin de Siècle, which won a Choice Outstanding Academic Book Award and an honorable mention for the 2007 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize in Slavic Languages and Literature from the Modern Language Association.
Alyson Tapp, Alexis Peri, Christine Evans, Cameron Wiggins, Ulla Hakanen, Lucas Stratton, Mieka Erley, Polina Barskova, Victoria Smolkin, and Gregory Kaganov

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Novel and City

November 2010

LC: 2010011538 DK
320 pp.   6 x 9   34 b/w illus.

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Paper $34.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-23604-5
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“Offers stimulating literary and cultural studies work in a fresh format with powerful
implications for new pedagogies and multimedia scholarship.”
—Julie A. Buckler, author of Mapping St. Petersburg

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Updated December 8, 2011

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