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'Epic and the Russian Novel from Gogol to Pasternak' examines the origin of the 19th century Russian novel and challenges the Lukács-Bakhtin theory of epic. By removing the Russian novel from its European context, the authors reveal that it developed as a means of reconnecting the narrative form with its origins in classical and Christian epic in such a way that expressed the Russian desire to renew and restore ancient spirituality. Through this methodology, Griffiths and Rabinowitz dispute Bakhtin's classification of epic as a monophonic and dead genre whose time has passed. The epic, argues Griffiths and Rabinowitz, is about heroes and the epic form itself as well as its durability and its unique contingence on earlier epics. Due to its grand themes and cultural centrality, the epic is the form most suited to newcomers or cultural outsiders seeking legitimacy through appropriation of the past. Through readings of Gogol's 'Dead Souls' - a uniquely problematic work, and one which Bakhtin argued was novelistic rather than epic - Dostoevsky's 'Brothers Karamazov', Pasternak's 'Doctor Zhivago' and Tolstoy's 'War and Peace', this book redefines "epic" and how we understand the sweep of Russian literature as a whole.
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