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dc.contributor.advisorChernetsky, Vitaly
dc.contributor.advisorCarlson, Maria
dc.contributor.authorStakun, Rebecca
dc.date.accessioned2018-10-24T22:13:27Z
dc.date.available2018-10-24T22:13:27Z
dc.date.issued2017-12-31
dc.date.submitted2017
dc.identifier.otherhttp://dissertations.umi.com/ku:15558
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1808/27006
dc.description.abstractThis dissertation explores the Russian experience of the “void” left in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union as it is reflected in Viktor Pelevin’s Chapaev and Pustota (1996), Generation “P” (1999), The Sacred Book of the Werewolf (2004), and Empire “V” (2006). If, as postmodernist theory suggests, there can be no overarching cultural (or other) narratives, then in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse post-Soviet Russia found itself in a void, with no old, established national narrative and no new “Russian idea” to shape future identity. At the very moment when post-Soviet Russians found their identities in greatest flux, communication and the search for identity were complicated by a global “crisis of signification” in which words lost their power to convey meaning about one’s reality. On the semiotic level, postmodernism posited the breakdown of the binary sign (signifier and signified), severing word from meaning and creating “empty signifiers.” The crisis was intensified by the twin realizations that the pervasive symbols of the Soviet regime had become “empty” and meaningless, while the western capitalism and hyperconsumerism that replaced them were equally empty and meaningless. All that was real was the void between signifier and signified. Many contemporary Russian writers engaged the void in their work, seeing it as a negative concept. Pelevin’s novels are unique in their treatment of the void as simultaneously positive and negative, as both emptiness and potentiality. The void (emptiness), as symbol and as philosophical concept, becomes prominent in times of great change that challenge national and individual identities. Historically, the void has played a prominent role in Russian philosophy and literature. It does so again in the post-Soviet period. Pelevin uses the East-West binary to explore Russia’s post-collapse void. East and West are the two most important cultural identities with which Russia has historically engaged. Pelevin explores Western values (specifically capitalism and hyperconsumerism) in Generation “P” and Empire “V” and portrays them more negatively. This “negative void” is the emptiness that underlies not only the symbols and language of the now defunct Soviet system, but also the advertisements and language of imported Western models. Both turned out to be simulacra—images with no meaning in reality, a mask over the void. Eastern values predominate in Chapaev and Pustota and The Sacred Book of the Werewolf; Pelevin portrays them more positively. Engaging with Mahāyāna Buddhism, Pelevin seeks to resolve the problems of hypermaterialism, empty signifiers, and pervasive simulacra that plague the West. In Buddhism both signifiers and signifieds are illusory, making the problem of the breakdown of the binary sign moot. Pelevin suggests that emptiness, or the void, offers a possible escape from the conundrum that faces the West by transcending its materialism and its ills. While Pelevin personally favors the eastern Buddhist model of self that embraces the void, he does not recommend that Russia imitate the East, as this would amount to little more than a reversal of Peter the Great’s westernization (and another iteration of Lotman and Uspenskii’s binary cultural model). Pelevin ultimately fails to suggest a new model for Russian national identity in these four novels. The author may still be looking for such a model or, perhaps, the “nothingness” that his search has yielded is his answer.
dc.format.extent234 pages
dc.language.isoen
dc.publisherUniversity of Kansas
dc.rightsCopyright held by the author.
dc.subjectSlavic literature
dc.subjectBuddhism
dc.subjectemptiness
dc.subjectPelevin
dc.subjectPost-Soviet
dc.subjectRussia
dc.subjectvoid
dc.titleTerror and Transcendence in the Void: Viktor Pelevin’s Philosophy of Emptiness
dc.typeDissertation
dc.contributor.cmtememberGreenberg, Marc L.
dc.contributor.cmtememberKokobobo, Ani
dc.contributor.cmtememberHayes, Bruce
dc.thesis.degreeDisciplineSlavic Languages & Literatures
dc.thesis.degreeLevelPh.D.
dc.identifier.orcid0000-0002-2447-6578
dc.rights.accessrightsopenAccess


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