Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Piers Brown


Since its first appearance in English in 1854, Nikolai Gogol’s novel Мёртвые души (Myortvye dushi) has undergone many retranslations. These range from the literal (Garnett, MacAndrew) to the radically divergent (Guerney, Lach-Szyrma). As one of the first works of 19th-century Russian literature to enter English, Gogol’s novel, better known as Dead Souls, has been present for virtually all major developments in modern Anglo-Russian literary relations: the Crimean War and its influx of Russian translation, the appearance of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov in 1912, the growth of Soviet-Anglo friendship societies in the 1930s, and the villainization of all things Russian that defined the Cold War. Yet Russian literature in English continues to be constructed primarily by tropes codified by authors like Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy. I argue that Gogol’s complexities as an author – his satiric bent, his Ukrainian heritage, and his multilingual narrative voice – have been smoothed over in English translation to create a text that fits within the grim, serious vision of Russian literature established by Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Using a wide variety of disciplinary lenses, I investigate the history of Dead Souls in English – how it was read, translated, and positioned relative to other English-language and Russian literatures – from the Crimean War to the paperback revolution of the 1960s. In doing so, I present a perspective on Anglo-American translation history that reveals much about how we have read Russia for decades, and how we might continue to read it moving forward.

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