In Paperback!

New In Paperback Spring 2016

The Woman in the Window manages to cross numerous boundaries with enviable ease. The result is not just intellectually stimulating, but eminently readable.” —Eliot Borenstein, Russian and Slavic studies, New York University

“Provocative and wide-reaching, The Woman in the Window: Commerce, Consensual Fantasy, and the Quest for Masculine Virtue in the Russian Novel seeks out sometimes distant and unexpected contexts in which to reread Russian classics. This point of view is refreshingly original, and these juxtapositions, often not obvious at first, are explained pithily and convincingly.” —David Herman, Slavic languages and literatures, University of Virginia

In The Woman in the Window: Commerce, Consensual Fantasy, and the Quest for Masculine Virtue in the Russian Novel, Russell Scott Valentino offers pioneering new insights into the historical construction of virtue and its relation to the rapidly shifting economic context in modern Russia. This study illustrates how the traditional virtue ethic, grounded in property-based conceptions of masculine heroism, was eventually displaced by a new commercial ethic that rested upon consensual fantasy. The new economic world destabilized traditional Russian notions of virtue and posed a central question that Russian authors have struggled to answer since the early nineteenth century: How could a self-interested commercial man be incorporated into the Russian context as a socially valuable masculine character?

With chapters on Gogol, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky as well as Pasternak and Nabokov, The Woman in the Window argues that Russian authors worked through this question via their depictions of “mixed-up men.” Such characters, according to Valentino, reveal that in a world where social reality and personal identity depend on consensual fantasies, the old masculine figure loses its grounding and can easily drift away. Valentino charts a range of masculine character types thrown off stride by the new commercially inflected world: those who embrace blind confidence, those who are split with doubt or guilt, and those who look for an ideal of steadfastness and purity to keep afloat—a woman in a window.

Recap of NYU Event

A sincere thanks to Eliot Borenstein for the invitation and the introduction two weeks ago for my talk at the Jordan Center at NYU. And to Anastassia Kostrioukova for the recap and summary at the above link, which begins like this:

“On April 3, 2015, the NYU Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia welcomed Russell Valentino – professor and chair of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures at Indiana University – to speak about his latest monograph The Woman in the Window, published by Ohio University Press in October 2014. Valentino stated that the image of a woman in the window was ubiquitous in the books and films with which he has been working for many years. When writing about this trope, Valentino added, it is hard not to write about male fantasy.

“With the European financial revolution of late 17th and early 18th centuries – the creation of the Bank of England, public and national debt, and replacement of land interests by money interests – the notion that a man’s virtues were found in property and land began “to give way to a more ambiguous conception of the self.” The establishment of a credit system was greeted by some as a potential improvement of well-being, while others saw it as the onset of corruption. A similar dual response, according to Valentino, can be traced to the onset of our present-day virtual culture….” (More at the link.)

Lovely to see some dear friends in the crowd. I hope at least my jokes were funny.