Anna Jouravliova †
Alexander Ostrovsky as a playwright and a theater person
According to Ivan Goncharov, Ostrovsky completed the theatrical « building, at the foundation of which the cornerstones of Fonvizin, Griboyedov, Gogol were laid ». Due to this general Ostrovsky’s merit he was already recognized by his contemporaries, also the acknowledgment of the national theater creator was fixed to him as something quite obvious in the history of Russian culture. The combination of literature and theater, two forms of culture that had remained disconnected in Russia before it, was the essence of this historical accomplishment. Ostrovsky’s historical mission consisted in the fact that he merged the Russian theater with national roots, based on his folk comedy, which mastered the types and masks that existed in everyday life and culture of those strata where national forms of life were preserved.
Ostrovsky’s theater could be defined as a model of the national space precisely because it demonstrates the links between fundamental types of domestic life with social and political transformations in modern Russia, based no longer on patriarchy, but on individual personal principles.
Alexander Ostrovsky : builder of a pantheon of European theater on the Russian stage
Alexander Ostrovsky’s dramatic heritage has been primarily regarded as “slice-of-life” plays in the Russian historico-theatrical tradition, due to detailed descriptions of everyday life and sociopsychological characters/types it formed. However, this perspective is rather one-legged and even incorrect. Ostrovsky’s personal library materials kept in St. Petersburg demonstrate that he was engaged in a thorough research of the history of theater (from ancient times to the present day) not only in Russian but also in several European languages. Ostrovsky was building a pantheon of European theaters of his own throughout his career—consciously and consistently, sometimes following the common trends and sometimes digressing from them and being guided by his own preferences. The theatrical pantheon Ostrovsky created in his translations, articles and plays embraces virtually all the eras of European theater and involves all national schools. His point of view was close to the contemporary understanding of “classical heritage”. European dramatists selected by Ostrovsky form the basis of the so-called classical repertoire of modern Russian theater. Being the foundation of the Russian national repertoire, Ostrovsky’s plays at the same time represent a form of digesting the pan-European theatrical heritage.
Alexander Ostrovsky, reformer of Russian theatre
The article examines Ostrovsky’s role as a theater reformer, who was keen to rethink the place of the theater in the city, by cutting it off from foreign models by the constitution and promotion of a national repertoire and by giving instructions for playing it. On March 24, 1882, the abolition of the imperial monopoly created a situation of competition and activated the renewal of the entire theatrical institution. Ostrovsky will be the main promoter and architect of these transformations. He advocates a chair theater, accessible to the popular audience, which educates and uplifts the public and trains actors in technical know-how and collective discipline. Performing a play is more than just saying it in the right tone. The sets, the music, the accessories have their place in a whole that must be orchestrated, composed. But Ostrovsky does not yet imagine the emergence of the function of the director, which will only emerge a little more than ten years after his death.
Jules Patouillet as French researcher of Ostrovsky’s drama in the mirror of Russian literary and theatrical criticism
The article examines the phenomen of « double reception » : at first the appreciation of drama and theatre of Alexander Ostrovsky in France and then the reaction to French reception in Russian literary/theatrical criticism. Until today the work by Jules Patouillet « Ostrovsky and his theatre of Russian mores » (« Ostrovski et son théâtre de moeurs russes ») /1912/ is the only French monography devoted to heritage of Russian playwriter. The publication of the Patouillet’s book was almost not noticed in France but it caused the heated discussion in Russian literary-/theatrical criticism and influenced to development of Ostrovsky’s researches in Russia.
A chapter in Ostrovsky’s reception in Paris : The Danicheffs, a melodrama ‘à la russe’ (1876)
We study here a secondary episode of Ostrovsky’s reception in France at the end of the xixth century, very revealing of the Franco-Russian cultural gaps in an era of "russomania". In 1876, the melodrama "à la russe" The Danicheff triumphed on the Parisian stages, without admitting its link with Ostrovsky’s play A Protégée of the Mistress. A parallel study of the means and stakes of the two plays reveals the false character of the French imitation, bringing to light the path that a French reception/translation of Ostrovsky must follow, conscious of the determinisms of both theatrical traditions.
Asian Russia in the works of A. N. Ostrovsky
The Asian component permeates all levels of Ostrovsky’s fictional world and reflects the author’s view of the problem of Russian identity while also letting us estimate the geopolitical claims of Russia’s general public. The article examines various markers of Asia and “asiachina” (backwardness) in the works of the playwright. Such markers are the names of towns on the Volga river, taken by Ostrovsky from the ancient history of the region (Bryakhimov) or from the neighboring Central Asia (Khiva, Kokand, Bukhara), the peoples living in a particular area (the Berendei, the Kokands, the Kirghiz-Kaisaks, etc.). Especially frequent ethnonyms are Tatars (the “next door strangers” for Russians), and Turks (due to the frequent wars between Russia and Turkey). His plays often feature Asian surnames of aristocratic characters such as Gurmyzhskaya, Murzavetskaya, Ulanbekova, Mamaev, Kuchumov, etc. The “steppe” beginning of “nomadism”, combined with harshness and despotism, characterizes the merchant class in the author’s plays. In addition to the Tatar and Eastern (Iranian-Turkish) sources, the Finno-Ugric locus becomes the other pole of “inner Asia”. It is associated with the symbolism of the “forest” (in the play ‘Forest’), an alternative to the Asian-Turkic “steppe”.
A short trip to the kingdom of darkness (Leskov and Ostrovski)
Katerina Izmaylova, Leskov’s heroine in Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, has very often been compared to Katerina Kabanova in Ostrovsky’s Storm. In a famous article entitled "A ray of light in the kingdom of darkness ["Луч света в темном царстве"], Dobrolyubov made Katerina Kabanova the victim of family and social despotism, directing the perception and interpretation of Ostrovsky’s play for a long time. The "kingdom of darkness" that we will discuss here is not, however, that of the merchant society to which Katerina Izmaylova and Katerina Kabanova belong, but that of their sexuality and the ways in which sexuality is represented in the two works. The exploration of this new "kingdom of darkness" will take place in three stages : sex and fear, sex and curse, sex and punishment.
The hidden folklore of Alexander Ostrovsky based on the play The Snow Maiden
The theme "A. N. Ostrovsky and folklore" is naturally present in many studies devoted to the work of the playwright. It is well known that Ostrovsky was well aware of traditional Russian culture, was himself a collector and a keen connoisseur of folklore heritage, and that he used folklore and ethnographic material in his works in a wide and varied way. In addition to easily identified examples of such material, there are also what the author of the article calls "hidden folklorism", that is, those folklore images, motifs, symbols, speech turns that are not "read" by modern admirers of the writer’s work and are not evaluated as the most important elements of Ostrovsky’s plays. Using the example of The Snow Maiden, the author tries to reveal the deep meaning of some images, realities, names, with the help of which Ostrovsky creates not just a fairy-tale plot, but immerses the reader-viewer in the mythological picture of the world that underlies the popular understanding of the laws of the life cycle, the relationship between man and nature, popular ideas about morality, true values, etc.
The poetry of the nature and love in the dramatic poem ‘Snow maiden’
This article focuses on the “spring tale” The Snow Maiden (1873) in which, as A. Zhuravliova noticed, Ostrovsky produced a lyrical representation of national life, using rich and varied folk-symbolic resources for this purpose. The article proposes an interpretation of the semantics of the famous enigmatic scene in act 4 (sc. 2). In this scene two leitmotifs are intertwined_ : the poetry of nature and the lyricism of love. In this scene, they reveal the internal dramaturgy. The scene of the last meeting of the mother (Spring) and her daughter (Snegurochka) concludes with the ritual of the initiation of the latter into the world of amorous passions, which consists in particular of braiding a crown that symbolizes virginity and love. Ostrovsky made the Snow Girl’s crown almost entirely from wild flowers related to national topoi such as fields, meadows, woods. The article aims at decoding the meanings of each of the flowers evoked from literary and lexicographical sources in coherence with the period of the play’s creation.
The article shows that if the use of proverbs in Ostrovsky’s theatre, far from being an innovation, goes back to a practice used by Russian comedians of the 18th century, among whom Mikhail Matinsky can be considered the founder of the theatre of manners, this practice actually serves other purposes in Ostrovsky. It has been thought that it is a way of promoting a "Russianness", close to the Slavophile trend, but the playwright’s work on the role of proverbs in the composition of the plays gives to the paremic statements a properly poetic function, which comes under the heading of epiphonem. Involved in the dramatic writing, the proverbs at Ostrovsky are indeed "acts of speech". They structure the argumentation, and underlie an authentic rhetoric of the proverb. This rhetoric, backed by a hermeneutic of proverbs, allows the playwright to build a network of interpretations and to probe the question of human destiny. While the Russian theatre of the eighteenth century had confined the proverb to the comedy, Ostrovsky opens the horizon of the drama.
Speakers and « spontaneous philologists » in Alexander Ostrovsky’s plays
Linguists have distinguished the regulatory function of language for a long time. Its aim is to influence somehow the addressee of the speech message. Many of A. Ostrovsky’s characters often use this function of language, especially the characters of Ostrovsky’s play « Talents and Admirers ». The compositional centre of this play is the linguistic strategy of Velikatov. The analysis of « Talents and Admirers » shows that this work is not only about the power of money and men’s dependance on the social circumstances of life. This play is also about the power of word. The word becomes an independent and powerful force that determines human’s fortune.
The « french plot » in Alexander Ostrovsky’s plays
The article is devoted to the study of literary parallels_ : the works of A.N._Ostrovsky and then-contemporary French comedy of E. Scribe, E. Labiche, E._Ogier, V. Sardou. The article examines materials of theater criticism of the XIX century, reveals the content of the concept of "French intrigue" in Russian critical reflection. The laws of the formation of the drama of E. Scribe and the playwrights of the "school of common sense" are analyzed. Comedies by A.N. Ostrovsky 1870-80s are presented as the experience of a productive dialogue between the Russian playwright and then-contemporary French tradition of "play of intrigue", which in turn subordinates, at the same time, to a special logic of resolving a dramatic conflict, which realizes the national-cultural understanding of the meaning of the circumstances of the action. As a result of the research, the author reveals cultural and historical patterns and the specifics of the transformation of the main genre-forming principles of French comedy in the works of A.N. Ostrovsky and in the context of Russian culture.
Ostrovsky at the opera
This article offers a quick overview of adaptations of Alexander Ostrovsky’s plays in opera, from the playwright’s first contemporary operas, to which he himself contributed, to adaptations of the Soviet period, and sometimes abroad. In general, the choice of Ostrovsky’s dramas is driven by a questioning around the notion of a "Russian" art and the means to implement it, it reveals an attention to power relations and the place of women, raises the question of the transposition of a realistic universe by conventional means of opera.