The Woman in the Window: Commerce, Consensual Fantasy, and the Quest for Masculine Character from Dostoevsky to Nabokov
Valentino’s lecture rests upon notions of how the traditional virtue ethic, grounded in property-based conceptions of masculine heroism, was eventually displaced by a new commercial ethic that rested upon consensual fantasy. The new economic world destabilized traditional Russian notions of virtue and posed a central question that Russian authors have struggled to answer since the early nineteenth century: How could a self-interested commercial man be incorporated into the Russian context as a socially valuable masculine character?
With examples drawn from the works of Gogol, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pasternak, and Nabokov, Valentino argues that Russian authors worked through this question via their depictions of mixed-up men, charting a range of masculine character types thrown off stride by the new commercially inflected world: those who embrace blind confidence, those who are split with doubt or guilt, and those who look for an ideal of steadfastness and purity to keep themselves afloat – a woman in a window.
Russell Scott Valentino is the author of two scholarly monographs and translator of seven books of literature from Italian, Russian, and Croatian. His most recent books include the co-edited (with Esther Allen and Sean Cotter) volume The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim & a Life in Translation (Open Letter Books), and the monograph The Woman in the Window (Ohio State University Press), both published in October, 2014. His reviews, essays, short fiction, poetry, and translations have appeared in a wide variety of literary magazines and scholarly journals. From 2009 to 2013 he served as editor-in-chief at The Iowa Review. He is the founder and senior editor of Autumn Hill Books, a contributing editor to The Iowa Review, recipient of NEA literature fellowships for translation in prose (2002) and poetry (2010), and currently serves as president of the American Literary Translators Association and professor and chair in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures at Indiana University.