Textual Dimensions of Urban Space in M.A. Bulgakov's Master and Margarita
Dement, Sidney Eric
University of Kansas
Slavic Languages & Literatures
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This dissertation explores the relationship between urban space and urban text according to the principles outlined by the Moscow-Tartu School of Semiotics in the 1980s and 90s. While the Petersburg Text in V.N. Toporov's formulation has become a commonplace of Russian literary criticism, a typologically equivalent "Moscow Text" has repeatedly been dismissed. This study outlines the common arguments for dismissing a "Moscow Text," suggests counter arguments, and proposes a model for analyzing Moscow space as a text in literary texts. The model is then used to prove the thesis that Moscow space functions as a text in M.A. Bulgakov's Master and Margarita. Three prominent loci within the Moscow of Master and Margarita demonstrate the textuality of urban space in literary texts: the monument to Pushkin on Tverskoi Boulevard, Margarita's Mansion, and the Spring Ball of the Full Moon. Bulgakov cites the historical realia and the literary texts associated with Moscow's monument to Pushkin to develop the theme of the poet in the novel. The semiotic principle of "labyrinthine Moscow" (moskovskaia putanitsa) enables Bulgakov to build the mysterious and ambivalent mansion (osobniak) that plays a central role in the paths of Margarita and Ivan throughout the novel. Turn-of-the-century photographs from the Sandunov Bathhouses uncover an additional layer of Moscow imagery at the Spring Ball of the Full Moon that reinforces plot connections between the Moscow, Iershalaim, and Phantasmagorical settings in the novel. Analyses of these loci demonstrate Bulgakov's uses of the textual dimensions of Moscow space to represent the struggle between the humanist and those in power (vlast') and contemplate the limits of artistic and personal freedom (volia).
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