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Peasant Speech in Ivan Turgenev’s “A Sportsman’s Sketches” and Russian Fiction Before the Emancipation

Alexey V. Vdovin


The article focuses on the representation of peasant speech in short stories from peasant life published before the abolition of serfdom in 1861. The author shows that throughout the entire period, writers gradually increased the ratio of dialect («regional») words in the speech of peasant characters. The culmination of this trend came in the mid-1850s and correlated, on the one hand, with the rapid development of ethnographic and dialectological knowledge in the Russian Empire, and, on the other hand, with the formation of a trend towards the aesthetic representation of peasants as “others” in juxtaposition to the educated elite. In prose, to make the subjectivity of peasants more embodied, it was necessary to depict their speech as generally understandable to readers, and at the same time — as phonetically and lexically different from it. The degree of such deviation was supposed to be not very significant, and literary critics constantly debated the fine line between ‘typically reliable’ and ‘inadequate’. The article presents various ways of depicting peasant voices and speech in the prose of both canonical (I. S. Turgenev) and peripheral authors (I. I. Zapolsky, A. V. Nikitenko, A. F. Martynov, E. P. Novikov).


DOI: 10.31168/2305-6754.2022.11.2.8


peasants in literature; Russian 19th Century Fiction; representation; skaz; speech; voice; dialects


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