Doctor Zhivago: A Critical Companion

Doctor Zhivago: A Critical Companion
by Edith W. Clowes
Northwestern Critical Companions to Russian Literature
1995 – 169 pages
(summaries are mine)


I. Introduction

“Doctor Zhivago in the Post-Soviet Era: A Re-Introduction”
by Edith W. Clowes

The Reception of Doctor Zhivago; The Place of Doctor Zhivago in Pasternak’s Art; Characters and Plot; The Genre of Doctor Zhivago; The Cultural Inheritance of Doctor Zhivago; Gender and Ethnicity; The Meaning of History in Doctor Zhivago; Doctor Zhivago in English Translation. Concludes with a look at the contemporary reception in Russia and the value of Doctor Zhivago to Western readers today.

II. Criticism

“Yury Zhivago’s Readers: Literary Reception in Pasternak’s Novel in His Time”
by Carol J. Avins

A discussion of how Yuri Zhivago’s poetry made its way to and was received by the public within the novel and how that reception changes over the course of the novel. In essence, how the artist-government-public relationship goes from quite open to very restrictive and censorious.

“Characterization in Doctor Zhivago: Lara and Tonya”
by Edith W. Clowes
How the treatment of characters in Doctor Zhivago differs from that of the traditional Russian novel. Basing her argument on Uncle Nikolai’s ideas about the “free personality” in Clowes looks at Yuri and Lara as being examples of this “higher consciousness” and then examines Lara and Tonya as “symmetrically placed but opposed characters,” Tonya remaining in the traditional role while Lara “transcends” it. Clowes maintains that a personal quest “supplants a national coming-of-age quest.”

“Soaked in The Meaning of Love and The Kreutzer Sonata”
The Nature of Love in Doctor Zhivago
by Jerome Spenser

An examination of the personal love relationships in Doctor Zhivago based on the philosophical differences between Solovyov’s “The Meaning of Love” and Tolstoy’s “The Kreutzer Sonata.” He examines the relationships of Lara and Komarovsky, Lara and Pasha, and Yuri and Lara, finding the ways in which Pasternak differed from both Tolstoy and Solovyov.

“Temporal Counterpoint as a Principle of Formation in Doctor Zhivago”
by Boris Gasparov

A critical evaluation based on Pasternak’s stated intent to create an “epic” novel. Gasparov uses the “melodrama” and extreme coincidence (as “the mainspring of the plot”) to make his point by interpreting these elements as the counterpoints of polyphonic music (movement, rhythm, sound) for “overcoming … the linear flow of time.” The author then shows how these “contrapuntal lines” are interwoven to form a complete fabric – the “crossing of fates,” of memory and essentially, of death. One strength of the novel is that it is open to a variety of possible interpretations. And he pronounces this a very sophisticated work.

“The Relationship of Lyrical and Narrative ‘Plot’ in Doctor Zhivago”
by Dina Magomedova

An examination of the relationships between Zhivago’s poetry, Pasternak’s narrative and his aesthetic views with an emphasis on the poem “Autumn.”

III. Primary Sources
Correspondence Relating to Doctor Zhivago

Excerpts related to the novel between Pasternak and Olga Freidenberg, Adriana Efron, Varlam Shalamov, N.P. Smirnov, John Harris, and Stephen Spender, dated between 1946 and 1959.

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