«Gegengabe» in Paremiology, Folklore, Language, and Literature – Honoring Wolfgang Mieder on His Seventieth Birthday
Edited By Christian Grandl and Kevin J. McKenna
Parabasis in Nikolai Gogol's The Inspector General: The Proverbial Medium
Kevin J. McKenna
In one of the more perceptive analyses of Nikolai Gogol's nineteenth-century comedy masterpiece, The Inspector General, the Russian Symbolist poet and literary critic, Vyacheslav Ivanov (1866–1949), made a compelling argument for similarities between the nineteenth-century Russian playwright's comedy and the Old Comedy of Aristophanes (fifth-century B.C.) (1974). The unusual originality of this essay is not surprising in light of Ivanov's thorough training as a classicist, which eventually led to a professorship of Greek at the University of Baku.1 To a considerable degree his views on art and culture had been heavily influenced by the ancients, and he often applied these views to his analysis of Russian literature.
The main argument advanced by Ivanov in his article on The Inspector General and the comedy of Aristophanes relates to his view that the action of Gogol's play "is not limited to a circle of personal relationships, but, rather, presents these relationships as components of a collective life and embraces a whole social microcosm, self-contained and self-sufficient, which stands symbolically for any social confederation, and of course reflects, as in a mirror, just that social confederation to whose entertainment and edification the comic action is directed." Ivanov follows up this view by observing parenthetically, "as the epigraph to The Inspector General has it: 'There's no grumbling at the mirror if your own mug is crooked'" (1974:201). In his analysis Ivanov continues to argue for more of a social message intended for Gogol's...
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