"Narrative and Celebrity: Contested Memory in turgenev's 'A fire at Sea'", with Donna Oliver, Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures
Date: Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
Time: 12:30 pm
Location: Mathers, Pearsons Hall
Sponsored by: Academic Affairs
Contact: Sheila Gustafson, Sheila Gustafson / 608-363-2667
In May of 1838, at the age of nineteen, Ivan Turgenev (future author of Fathers and Sons and other works now part of the nineteenth-century Russian literary canon) set sail from St. Petersburg onboard the ship the Nicholas I to pursue his studies in Berlin. As virtually all biographies of Turgenev tell us, the ship caught fire on the night of May 18-19, and there ensued the expected panic among the passengers, to which the young Turgenev was not immune. What exactly happened during this panic, however, remains a piece of disputed narrative, complicated not only by the inherent difficulties of recording and reconciling eyewitness accounts, but also by Turgenev’s character itself, his subsequent fame, and the reputation he gained in Russian literary society. The story, as a result, became fluid, subjected to multiple repetitions and re-inscriptions—first in the form of nasty society gossip, and then later in literary renderings both benign and malicious, and finally in various memoirs of Turgenev’s contemporaries.In 1883, as he lay dying of cancer in Paris, Turgenev dictated his own rendition of the event, a short piece entitled “A Fire at Sea.” This presentation will examine the ways in which Turgenev’s act of writing “A Fire at Sea” functions as an attempt to wrest back control of his own life narrative—control that was lost in large part once he achieved fame as a writer and thereby was subjected to the loss of freedom that accompanies celebrity; it will also offer an assessment of the success of that attempt.___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Hot buffet lunch will be available for $3.00 beginning at 12:00 noon. To assure a proper count, please RSVP to Csilla Macsari by Tuesday, September 27 (email: macsaric, or call extension 2263). Everyone is welcome!