The University of Wisconsin Press

Literature & Criticism / Russian Studies / Slavic Studies

Challenging the Bard
Dostoevsky and Pushkin, a Study of Literary Relationship
Gary Rosenshield

Publications of the Wisconsin Center for Pushkin Studies
David M. Bethea, Series Editor

“A work of impressive quality that shows in detail how broad a shadow Russia’s supreme poet cast on those coming after.”
—David M. Bethea, series editor

When geniuses meet, something extraordinary happens, like lightning produced from colliding clouds, observed Russian poet Alexander Blok. There is perhaps no literary collision more fascinating and deserving of study than the relationship between Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837), Russia’s greatest poet, and Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–81), its greatest prose writer. In the twentieth century, Pushkin, “Russia’s Shakespeare,” became enormously influential, his literary successors universally acknowledging and venerating his achievements. In the nineteenth century, however, it was Dostoevsky more than any other Russian writer who wrestled with Pushkin’s legacy as cultural icon and writer. Though he idolized Pushkin in his later years, the younger Dostoevsky exhibited a much more contentious relationship with his eminent precursor.

In Challenging the Bard, Gary Rosenshield engages with the critical histories of these two literary titans, illuminating how Dostoevsky reacted to, challenged, adapted, and ultimately transformed the work of his predecessor Pushkin. Focusing primarily on Dostoevsky’s works through 1866—including Poor Folk, The Double, Mr. Prokharchin, The Gambler, and Crime and Punishment—Rosenshield observes that the younger writer’s way to literary greatness was not around Pushkin, but through him. By examining each literary figure in terms of the other, Rosenshield demonstrates how Dostoevsky both deviates from and honors the work of Pushkin. At its core, Challenging the Bard offers a unique perspective on the poetry of the master, Pushkin, the prose of his successor, Dostoevsky, and the nature of literary influence.

Gary Rosenshield, professor emeritus of Slavic languages and literature at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is the author of many books, including Pushkin and the Genres of Madness and Western Law, Russian Justice, both published by the University of Wisconsin Press.


“Makes many provocative connections and is accessible to undergraduates, a fine contribution to the field.”
Slavic and East European Journal

“Readers interested in both Pushkin and Dostoevsky can find a wealth of stimulating commentary in Challenging the Bard.”
The Russian Review

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Of Related Interest:
Pushkin and the Genres of Madness
The Masterpieces of 1833
Gary Rosenshield
"Rosenshield's book is a gold mine of information not only on Pushkin but on many of his predecessors, contemporaries, and critics as well."—Victor Terras


July 2013
LC: 2012032688 PG
328 pp.   6 x 9

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Paper $34.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-29354-3
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“Interesting, effective, and thought provoking thanks to Rosenshield’s acute analysis and originality.”
—Sarah J. Young, author of Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” and the Ethical Foundations of Narrative: Reading, Narrating, Scripting


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