Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Taking flight: Andrei Bely's appropriation of Plato's winged soul
by Solodkaia, Daria, Ph.D., Princeton University, 2009, 237; 3374785
Abstract (Summary)

The mysterious Russian soul, incomprehensible to reason and immeasurable by any common measure, is a notorious subject. Trapped between East and West, it has received numerous interpretations ranging from useless idleness to universal salvation. The present dissertation traces the Russian soul’s origins to the Greeks. The origins are studies not in the usual context of Greek Orthodoxy, but through Plato. In particular, Andrei Bely’s artistic prose is shown to develop Plato’s myth of the winged soul. Chapter I presents The Silver Dove as a Gogolian version of Plato’s myth. It concentrates on the love triangle between the protagonist and his mistresses and discusses the dependence of man’s “wingedness” on a woman’s soul. It also posits the question of the soul’s winglessness, which constructs the myth in reverse. Chapter II examines how the illusions of the outer world, augmented by Petersburg’s own myth, turn every manifestation of the winged soul, as seen in a woman, into a false impression. Although the protagonist of Petersburg shares much with his predecessor, he has to deal with the winged soul from inside, instead of looking for a mediator. Chapter III investigates two novels, Kotik Letaev and The Baptized Chinaman. In the former, Bely introduces the winged soul together with Plato’s theme of anamnesis. Like Plato, Bely views the soul’s memories about its prenatal life as a cognitive process. However, for Bely cognition means not only remembering, but also forgetting. In The Baptized Chinaman, the focus shifts, and the soul’s animative function comes to the fore. Chapter IV addresses the myth of the winged soul in Bely’s last novel, Moscow. There Bely’s syncretic vision reaches its summit, and the image of the winged soul unites in itself elements of all the previous novels.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wachtel, Michael
School: Princeton University
School Location: United States -- New Jersey
Source: DAI-A 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Slavic literature
Keywords: Bely, Andrey, Plato, Russia, Symbolism, Winged soul
Publication Number: 3374785
ISBN: 978-1-109-36397-5
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