Unformatted text preview: The Master and Margarita The Master and Margarita
IAH 207: “Dangerous Art” November 21, 2011 Difficulty of Categorizing The Difficulty of Categorizing Master and Margarita The novel has been considered from a variety of literary and cultural traditions, including (Weeks 1826): RomanaClef Political Allegory Carnival and the Carnivalesque (Mikhail Bakhtin) Menippean Satire The Faust legend/parody (especially Goethe’s and Gounod’s versions) Fairy Tale The double novel (historical novel and Moscow farce) RomanaClef
RomanaClef RomanaClef: “a work of prose fiction in which the author expects the knowing reader to identify, despite their altered names, actual people of the time” (Abrams 275)
“MASSOLIT is a thinly veiled version of the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP), the predecessor of the Writers’ Union, so despised by Bulgakov and his close associates; the Griboedov is the House of Writers on Herzen Street; Perelygino is the writers’ colony of Peredelkino outside Moscow; the critic Latunsky is Leopold Averbakh, who trashed Bulgakov’s Diaboliada when it appeared in print; the poet Bezdomny’s name (Mr. ‘Homeless’) is chosen to remind readers of other ‘proletarian’ poets who wrote under similar pseudonyms, such as Demyan Bednyi (Mr. ‘Poor’) and Oleskandr Bezymenskii (Mr. ‘Nameless’); the poet Riukhin is manifestly the great bard of the socialist state, Vladimir Mayakovsky, with whom Bulgakov enjoyed relations of mutual and undisguised hatred” (Weeks 20) Political Allegory
Political Allegory Allegory: “a narrative, whether in prose or verse, in which the agents and actions, and sometimes the settings as well, are contrived by the author to make coherent sense on the ‘literal,’ or primary, level of signification, and at the same time to signify a second, correlated order of signification” (Abrams 5)
Political Allegory: “the characters and actions that are signified literally in their turn represent, or ‘allegorize,’ historical personages and events” (Abrams 5)
Some critics have interpreted Woland as a figure for Stalin and even the other devils as specific henchmen of Stalin: “Woland stands in for Stalin, and his suite represents Stalin’s famous henchmen – Molotov, Voroshilov, and Kaganovich. The murder of Yuda of Kerioth is the murder of Kirov. The removal of Stepa Likhodeev to Yalta is the removal of Trotsky to Alma Ata in January 1928” (Weeks 20) Carnival and Carnivalesque
Carnival and Carnivalesque Carnival (period before Lent): tradition primarily from Roman Saturnalia when relations between master and servant were inverted Mikhail Bakhtin on the “carnivalesque” (from Rabelais and His World): “a temporary liberation from the prevailing truth and from the established order” (qtd. in Weeks 19) A “world turned upside down” – “This literary mode parallels the flouting of authority and inversion of social hierarchies that, in many cultures, are permitted in a season of carnival. It does so by introducing a mingling of voices from diverse social levels that are free to mock and subvert authority, to flout social norms by ribaldry, and to exhibit various ways of profaning what is ordinarily regarded as sacrosanct” (Abrams 63). “The genesis for [Bakhtin’s] definition was the medieval mystery plays given on church feast days and invariably accompanied by an atmosphere of horseplay, crude humor, farce, and revelry. The collision of the eternal (the Passion story, often presented in starkly realistic detail) and the ephemeral allowed carnival goers to air their social and economic grievances and, most important, to set the prevailing social Pieter Brueghel’s “The Fight Pieter Brueghel’s “The Fight Between Carnival and Lent” Carnivalesque Devils
Carnivalesque Devils In medieval morality plays as well, devils often assume carnivalesque qualities, seducing the characters (and the audience) with scatalogical humor (references to farting, defecation and urination, sex, etc.) In The Master and Margarita, the devils have distinguishable traits: Woland – “Satan,” “professor of black magic” – possible connection to Goethe’s Mephistopheles (e.g., poodlehead cane, the shower of money at the Variety) first to tell the story of Yeshua. Koroviev – “skinny, long citizen in a little checkered jacket, a jockey’s cap, and a pincenez” (96) – seems to be Woland’s right
hand man. Behemoth – quite violent cat who talks and walks on his hind legs Azazello – “a small man…sheathed in black tights, with a knife tucked into his leather belt, redhaired, with a yellow fang and with albugo [a funguslike infection] in his left eye” (200) Menippean Satire
Menippean Satire Satire: “the literary art of diminishing or derogating a subject by making it ridiculous and evoking toward it attitudes of amusement, contempt, scorn, or indignation. It differs from the comic in that comedy evokes laughter mainly as an end in itself, while satire derides; that is, it uses laughter as a weapon, and against a butt that exists outside the work itself” (Abrams 275) Menippean Satire: “takes its name from the thirdcentury philosopher Menippus, …an exotic mixture of seemingly contradictory elements: history and myth, philosophy and fantasy, the serious and the comic, high and lownarrative levels. In this mixture, time and space are warped, alternate states of reality (dreams, sickness) are prominent, and irony abounds. Above all, Menippean satire allows the writer to target society’s institutions and authority figures without fear of retribution. In Bulgakov’s Moscow, the targets worthy of satire were many, and he hit them all – the stateplanned economy and its mania for foreign currency; the housing shortage and people’s ingenious solutions to it; statemandated literature and the trash it produced; MarxistLeninist materialism and the selfsatisfied Satire of Stalinist Russia
Satire of Stalinist Russia “Stateplanned economy and its mania for foreign currency” Nikanor Ivanovich Bosoy, the chairman of the tenants’ association, is arrested for having foreign currency (1012) Vassily Stepanovich Lastochkin, the bookkeeper of the Variety, also arrested for having foreign currency (194) “the housing shortage and people’s ingenious solutions to it” After Berlioz’s death, Bosoy receives many requests for his apartment (95) Bosoy accepts a bribe from Woland for the apartment (9899) Maximilian Andreevich Poplavsky, Berlioz’s uncle, comes to Moscow to claim his apartment after he hears of his death (196) “statemandated literature and the trash it produced” The poet Riukhin understands that he is a bad poet and curses Pushkin for his “luck” (73) Names of the “most eminent representatives of the poetry section of Massolit” (6061) – the entire scene is described as Satire of Stalinist Russia
Satire of Stalinist Russia “MarxistLeninist materialism and the selfsatisfied philistines it bred” Berlioz, the chair of the board for “Massolit,” a Moscow literary association, tells Ivan the story of Jesus is a myth (9) “Man governs it himself” – Ivan’s response to Woland’s inquiry about who governs the world (13) Internal passport system
Man shows his passport to prove he is married and to get free women’s clothes (129) Disappearance of citizens
People frequently disappear from Apartment no. 50 by “sorcery” according to one (7577) – appropriate that the devil sets up shop here. Distrust of foreigners and kulaks Ivan believes Woland is a foreign spy (1617) Ivan denounces the poet Riukhin as a “little kulak carefully Satiric Revenge on Literary Satiric Revenge on Literary Establishment
“The devils’ campaign against the literary establishment, which began with the murder of Berlioz, now ends in the destruction of the building in which it is housed [occurs later in the novel]. The comic way in which Korov’yev [Koroviev] and Begemot [Behemoth] assure Woland that it will be rebuilt in fact leaves us in some doubt as to whether the literary establishment really will make use of this opportunity to reconstruct their institution in a new and better form. All the evidence of the Epilogue suggests that, just as they remain impervious to the truth of the Master’s novel, now lost to them, so they also ignore the message of Woland’s visit” (Curtis 167) The Master
The Master We are finally introduced to “The Master” (partly autobiographic portrait of Bulgakov) in Chapter 13 Reveals that Woland is Satan (136) We find out that like Ivan he had also written a book about Pontius Pilate (137) connects both Ivan and the Master to Woland (and hence to Bulgakov) He has renounced his name (loss of identity) – 138 Ironic that he has won the state lottery, which initially allows him to write his novel (138) Describes his relationship with Margarita (13942) Describes the rejection of his book (Bulgakov went through a similar rejection of the only part of The Master and Margarita he would attempt to publish – see Curtis 131) – 14344 – compare also to the opening scene with Ivan and Berlioz Later he is denounced in the press (144) and tries to burn his manuscript (146) Bulgakov as Exiled Writer
Bulgakov as Exiled Writer Suggestion that the Master was subsequently held by the authorities (14849) – later find out it was because one Aloisy Mogarych wanted the Master’s apartment (28889) Film version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dx3xji7PRg0&feature=related But the indirect way this is told (Master has to whisper to Ivan because he claims he hears someone outside) suggests Bulgakov afraid that the manuscript might be seen. The effective exile of the Master likely a reflection on Bulgakov’s own position. On 28 March, 1930, he wrote to the Soviet government for permission to emigrate or failing that, for a directorial position in a theater (see letter in Milne 26874). Stalin himself responded to Bulgakov and he was then granted a position as an assistant director at the Moscow Art Theatre (ix). Nevertheless, he never believed he would be able to publish The Master and Margarita within the Soviet Union. The first part was not published until 1966 (and the second in 1967), more than 25 years after his death. Sources Sources
Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Ft. Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace, 1999.
Curtis, J. A. E. Bulgakov’s Last Decade: The Writer and Hero. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987.
Milne, Lesley. Mikhail Bulgakov: A Critical Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990.
Weeks, Laura D. “ ‘What I Have Written, I Have Written.’” The Master and Margarita: A Critical Companion. Ed. Laura D. Weeks. Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1996. ...
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- Fall '08
- Stalinist Russia, Woland, political allegory, Bulgakov, Menippean satire, Lesley. Mikhail Bulgakov