Primitivist or moralist?: the biological ethos in Boris Piľniak's shorter prose Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Halva, Helen Graves
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • The so-called woman question raised by the nihilists of the 1860s and debated by the realist writers, notably Tolstoi, evolved into a revaluation of traditional sexual morality in the modernist movements of the twentieth century. In the wake of the dramatic social changes wrought by the 1905 and 1917 revolutions, there also arose a neo-nihilist reexamination of women's emancipation issues, represented by political and cultural public figures such as Aleksandra Kollontai. This dissertation examines approximately twenty stories and novellas written between 1914 and 1936 by Russian/Soviet writer Boris Andreevich Vogau (pseudonym Piľniak), and several units from his first novel, in order to present an interpretation of Piľniak's views on and position in that debate, based on close readings of the texts mentioned. This dissertation argues that Piľniak, considered by many commentators a champion of primitive man and instinctive behavior, in fact defines a biological morality based on pre-marital virginity, permanent sexual fidelity to a single mate, personal integrity and self-awareness, and a reproductive mandate. In Piľniak's ethos, which evolved over time, human mating is to be governed first of all by love, and sexual union is inseparable from the procreative purpose. The most basic human role is to be a loving mate and parent, and the overarching purpose of procreation is to rear children to become loving, humane, and authentic human beings, an activity that is best undertaken within the nuclear family. This dissertation further argues, by presenting the Tolstoian subtext of three of Piľniak's stories, that Piľniak's basic moral views, especially concerning the family and personal integrity, are essentially in harmony with those of Lev Tolstoi. The dissertation also explores Piľniak's evolution away from his early valorization of primitive human life uncorrupted by urban culture, an evolution that was virtually complete by the mid-1920s.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures (Russian)."
  • Vuletic, Ivana
  • Lapushin, Radislav
  • Levine, Madeline G.
  • Masing-Delic, Irene
  • Putney, Christopher
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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