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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Nikolai Gogol's commedia del demonio Borda, Ann Elizabeth


Though it is not certain to what extent Gogol was familiar with Dante, it appears he may have regarded Dead Souls I (1842) as the first part of a tripartite scheme in light of La Divina Commedia. Interestingly, the foundations for such a scheme can be found in Gogol's first major publication, Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka (1831-1832) and, in the prose fiction and plays of 1835-1836, a definite pattern is revealed. The pattern that evolved in the works of this period involves the emergence of a demonic element which shatters any illusion of a Paradise which may have been established previously. Consequently, one is then drawn down through the awakenings of conscience - Purgatory and, finally, to realization in the Inferno. The inversion of the Dante scheme which takes place, results in a "commedia del demonio". This "commedia" is particularly significant for both interpreting Gogol's works and for understanding the author himself. It forms a bridge between Gogol's early comic-gothic tales in Evenings and the mature style and humour of Dead Souls. Equally important is the fact that correlations with the literary devices and the religious thought of Dante's time can also be seen. Such works as "Old World Landowners" (Mirgorod, 1835), "Viy" (Mireorod, 1835), "Nevsky Prospekt" (Arabesques, 1835) and the play The Government Inspector (performed in 1836) are especially representative of Nikolai Gogol's "commedia del demonio", and therefore form an integral part to this study. In connection with these and other works, certain links concerning the literary and historical heritage, and personal spirituality which exist between Gogol and Dante as reflected in both their own life and works will be examined as well. Thus the "commedia" scheme, and ultimately, Gogol as a writer of the human "soul" may be better understood.

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