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A.M. Gorky Institute
of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

IWL RAS Publishing

A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences


Povarskaya 25a, 121069 Moscow, Russia



Types of publications

About the author

William C. Brumfield, Professor of Slavic Studies, Tulane University (Louisiana, USA), PhD in Slavistics, historian of Russian culture, photographer, historian of Russian regions, architectural preservationist, author of books and articles on problems in preserving the architecture of the Russian North. In October 2019 awarded the Order of Friendship by the President of the Russian Federation.

ORCID ID: 0000-0001-8886-664X.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The Latin phrase “Et in Arcadia ego” (from a painting by Nicolas Poussian) has been interpreted as referring both to the presence of man in an idyllic place and to the presence of death in that same space. The article applies this ambiguous treatment to the Russian country estate as a place of moral conflict in the novel “Hard Times” by V.A. Sleptsov and I.S. Turgenev’s “Fathers and Sons”. Their interpretation requires an understanding of both the setting of the estate within the natural environment and its socio-cultural status linked to the theme of social justice in Russian during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The article demonstrates that a crucial function of the Russian country estate as a literary topos is the creation of a moral space (moralis locus) within which profound existential questions are posed and discussed. The stagelike spatiality of the country estate-enclosed yet in proximity to the natural environment- provides an ideal setting not only for gathering the verbal antagonists but also for establishing their identity as a function of their attitude toward the presence of nature. This latter element — the presence of nature — in turn summons the question of the characters’ (and writers’) relationship to Romanticism in nineteenth-century literature. It was Romanticism which elevated the human perception of Nature’s transcendent harmony as a fundamental literary trope. At the same time the immediate presence of nature as a productive, life-nourishing land situated the estate in the midst of the intractable social problems of the peasantry and its economic plight, before and after the emancipation in 1861.

  • Keywords: “estate text”, moralis locus, Arcadia, romanticism, an idyllic, nature, countryside, moral conflict, ideology, I.S. Turgenev, V.A. Sleptsov, A.P. Chekhov, A.I. Solzhenitsyn.


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