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Nikolai Hohol/Mykola Gogol: Performing the Hybrid Self



Yuliya Ilchuk


Friday, February 6, 2015 - 12:00pm


Building 260, Room 252




Nikolai Hohol/Mykola Gogol: Performing the Hybrid Self

This presentation focuses on the performative nature of Nikolai Gogol’s discourse and cultural identity. The division of the writer’s oeuvre into Ukrainian period (Mykola Hohol) and Russian period (Nikolai Gogol) has reduced his ambivalence to the stereotypical self-representation as the colonial other. In my analysis of the linguistic and textual changes that Gogol had made across different editions of his texts, I will demonstrate how the writer “returned a colonial gaze” having created a hybrid literary language. The concept of hybridity, as applied to Gogol’s language, expands the limits of a mere mixture between the two related languages. Gogol’s hybrid language includes various types of cross-language phenomena which  deterritorialize the normative use of the Russian on the semantic, syntactic, and stylistic levels. Rewriting and destroying, revising and standardizing his works along the norms of the Russian literary language, Gogol negotiated his regional Ukrainian identity. Although Gogol’s idiosyncratic expressions and meanings were overwritten through a process of imperial standardization, the traces of the previous texts still peep through the final versions. One of the other “identity acts” discussed in the presentation is the narrative construction of hybridity. The narrative act in Gogol’s texts is culturally performative since it does not presuppose a dominant narrative voice and stable ideological position but constitutes a double-voiced discourse which is simultaneously addressed to the metropolitan Russian and the colonial Ukrainian audiences. The presentation will conclude with a side-by-side visualization (in BeyondCompare) of the two redactions of Gogol’s Taras Bulba (1835, 1842). With regard to Gogol’s “text,” it is no longer valid to ask where one variant ends and the other begins. His “text” becomes inclusive of all its variants and its “corrections.” The broader questions that my research project raises are how to establish continuity between all the variants of Gogol’s texts, all the pieces of his identity? What can serve as the “link”, the “cohesive element,” the “gathering place” in the dynamic process of his identity formation? How to resolve the “Gogol/Hohol” problem?