|About the Book|
Chekhovs Existentialism: The Ethics of Outsidedness is a study of Anton Chekhovs moral philosophy in the context of Russian religious thought and European existential philosophy. The dissertation challenges the popular scholarly notion of ChekhovMoreChekhovs Existentialism: The Ethics of Outsidedness is a study of Anton Chekhovs moral philosophy in the context of Russian religious thought and European existential philosophy. The dissertation challenges the popular scholarly notion of Chekhov as a non-philosophical writer by showing how his carefully developed motif of a double consciousness re-envisions some of the prominent philosophical concerns of the Russian prose tradition. Through close readings of the stories and plays, the dissertation argues that Chekhovs basic dramatic conflict, whether externalized between two characters or internalized within one individual, is consistently ontological---pitting a melodramatist (an individual blindly immersed in a dramatic situation) against a metadramatist (an alienated, self-conscious observer). While this dialectic appears as a comic formula in Chekhovs earlier work, this study traces its evolution into a mature ethical vision, especially starting from the early 1890s onwards. Through an examination of the dialectic between these two perspectives of the self, the dissertation posits the central problem of Chekhovs ethics: the discovery of a path back into life for the alienated consciousness and the artistic challenge of representing this path truthfully.-Chapter 1 introduces the basic paradigm that lies behind our approach, developing the terms metadrama and melodrama in the context of Russian and European thought. Chapters 2 and 3 constitute the center of the argument, tracing the notion of a double consciousness over the span of Chekhovs career, first through a series of antagonistic characters and then through the evolving genre of the love story. Chapter 4 examines how Chekhov spatially foregrounds the existential journeys of his characters. Chapter 5 argues that Chekhovs treatment of the double self evokes his own original conception of the symbol.-This discussion of double consciousness in Chekhov leads to a significant reevaluation of Chekhovs relationship with Russian Symbolism, his connection to European existential philosophy (often remarked upon in criticism, but not yet studied in depth), and, in particular, his unique vision of Russian spirituality.