The Gothic Imagination in Ukrainian Romanticism


  • Svitlana Krys Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, University of Alberta


Although there have been many studies devoted to the Gothic in European and American Romantic literatures, it remains largely overlooked in Ukrainian literature. The British scholar Neil Cornwell has attempted an analysis of the Gothic in Russian literature, including in his work references to the Ukrainian prose writer Mykola Hohol' [Nikolai Gogol']. Cornwell and Leonard J. Kent see the supernatural in Hohol’s oeuvre as evidence of Gothic influences. On the whole, however, the Gothic imagination in Hohol’s stories has not been studied in depth. The same is true for the works of other Ukrainian Romantic authors living in the Russian Empire—e.g., Hryhorii Kvitka-Osnov"ianenko, Oleksa Storozhenko, and Panteleimon Kulish, as well as those living in Galicia, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, such as Omelian Partyts'kyi, Orest Avdykovs'kyi, Volodyslav Lozyns'kyi, and Lev Sapohivs'kyi. My preliminary analysis reveals that Gothic elements are very vivid in their works. Also, there is evidence suggesting that European Gothic authors, such as Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis, Jacques Cazotte and Charles Maturin, whose works were popular among the intelligentsia of both the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires, influenced them. 

My first goal will be to show that there was awareness of the Gothic among Ukrainian Romantic authors. Against this background, I will examine their oeuvre and catalogue those works, which belong to the Gothic genre, thus, defininng and establishing the Ukrainian Gothic canon. I will then test whether there are common themes among these writers, and whether they echo the concerns of West European Gothic literature. Since the supernatural is one of the constituent elements of Gothic prose, I will engage in a comparative analysis of the depiction of supernatural occurrences in the Ukrainian and West European Gothic. I will attempt to provide a psychological interpretation of the supernatural in order to identify the symbols, hidden behind these images in the works of the Ukrainian and West European Gothic authors. My investigation will strive to trace wheter there are any similarities or differences between them and will reveal the manner in which the Ukrainian Gothic relates to the West European Gothic. By examining what is being borrowed, and what is being discarded by Ukrainian Gothic literature, as well as the innovations it introduces, I will determine the specificity of the Ukrainian Gothic. As part of my work, I also propose to extend the notion of the Gothic to folklore by investigating the manner in which oral literature could have served as a common source for the Gothic in both West European and Ukrainian literature. I expect that such an analysis will allow me to reevaluate previous scholarly approaches to Ukrainian Romanticism, which saw the supernatural element as being solely a product of the folkloric imagination. It will also allow me to identify any specific elements in Ukrainian Gothic works, which might have originated in the West European Gothic. 

My dissertation aspires to initiate a discussion of the nature of the Gothic in Ukrainian Romanticism and lay the groundwork for subsequent analysis of the Gothic within the oeuvre of those Ukrainian Modernist and Post-Modernist writers, whose works also show evidence of this trend.