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Is This Not the Beginning of a Change?: Chernyshevsky, His Time & His Legacy

Alexey Vdovin, Moscow Higher School of Economics; Valeria Sobol, University of Illinois,

April 11, 2019 · 11:30 amApril 12, 2019 · 5:30 pm · 245 East Pyne

Department of Comparative Literature

Despite the political and literary significance of Nikolai Chernyshevksy’s 1863 novel, What Is to Be Done?, it remains relatively unknown and understudied in the U.S. Chernyshevsky himself was an influential critic and editor, at the center of a thriving and influential radical literary culture in the 1860s, who, like the authors who surrounded, has been neglected in U.S. scholarship. The novel lauded by Plekhanov, Kropotkin, Lenin, and Mayakovsky was not only received as the “gospel” of the “new people” to whom it was dedicated, but was also taken up by theorists and revolutionaries in the New York-based émigré anarchist organizations in the 1890s and in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Revolutionaries around the world looked to Chernyshevsky’s novel as a repository of topoi, rhetorical tools, and practical advice to interpret their own experiences and construct their identities and communities.

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