Handout 1, Madness & Civilization 2

April 14, 2009

Madness and Civilization 2                                   

Instructor: Svitlana Kobets, PhD

Class 1: 1. Romanticism, Creativity, Madness (lecture)

2. The Diary of a Madman by Gogol (discussion)


“In vain does one knock at the gates of poetry with a sane mind.” Plato, Phaedrus

“Poetry demands a man with a special gift … or a touch of madness.” Aristotle, Poetics

“No sane-minded poet could ever enter Helicon.” Democritus, as quoted in Cicero, De divinatione

“By some divine force the poet’s mind is raised above the ordinary.” Seneca the Younger, Epistulae Morales


1. How many voices do we hear in this narrative? Which of them is reliable/believable? Through which of them do we access the reality?

2. Who is Poprishchev? What can we say about his personality? How do in his opinion others see and treat him? What is his view of the world?

3. Why is Poprishchev angry? What does his anger tell us about him?

4. What are Poprishchev’s interests, passions and likes?

5. What does he dislike?

6. What does Poprishchev’s statement, “I am a nobleman,” say about him?

7. Does Poprishchev change in the course of the narrative?

8. Why does Poprishchev destroy the dogs’ letters? What is the significance of this act?

9. When does the dividing line between reality and fantasy begin to fade in the story?

10. Does the ending, Poprishchev’s belief that he is the king of Spain, come as a surprise? What (if any) were the pointers to Poprishchev’s upcoming metamorphosis?

11. Why does not Poprishchev answer, when in the end ‘the Grand Inquisitor’ calls, “Poprishchev!” and then, “Aksenii Ivanov(ich)! Titular councilor! Nobleman!” and then “Ferdinand VIII, King of Spain!”? Why in the end Poprishchev does not identify with any of the above?



© 2018 by Svitlana Kobets. All right reserved.