April 14, 2009
and Civilization 2
Instructor: Svitlana Kobets, PhD
Class 1: 1. Romanticism, Creativity, Madness (lecture)
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
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
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?