Metaphoric Recurrences of Dreamlike Imagery in M. Khvylovy’s “My Self (Romantica)” and N. Gogol’s “Diary of a Madman”

  • Daria Polianska University of Alberta


Delusional states such as madness and hallucination are traditionally viewed as mental disorders characterized by a chaotic activity or as an experience in which something is perceived as true but is not real. In a literary discourse, madness and hallucination can be viewed as analogous to metaphoric perception of reality. Primarily, due to the fact that the way protagonists think and see things shifts from accepted societal norms to unaccountable patterns of behavior.

In this article I approach madness and hallucination as dreamlike states of mind and follow George Lakoff’s belief that everyday abstract concepts like time, change, causation, and purpose appear to be metaphorical (1). From this point, I explore the narrative of madness and hallucination through the metaphoric recurrences of dreamlike imagery in Nikolai Gogol’s “Diary of a Madman” and Mykola Khvylovy’s “My Self (Romantica).”

I suggest that both stories present situations of crisis, in which the characters appear on the edge of mental breakdown and thus experience the dreamlike states. Symbolically, the recurrent images that appear in the stories are connected to the idea of nationhood and social pressures within imperial Russia (1835) in “Diary of a Madman” and to the Communist Party ideology during its early rule in Ukraine (approximately 1920s-1930s) in “Myself (Romantica).” Therefore, by depicting the progression of their protagonists’ mental disorders, the writers reveal the truth about social and political struggles of their times