Robert Romanchuk Lecture: "Gogol’s Mirgorod: Four Ways to Write a Perverse Symptom"

March 31, 2017 - 1:00pm

Location and Address

Humanities Center 

602 Cathedral of Learning 


Speaker: Robert Romanchuk (Florida State University) 


Donald Fanger, in The Creation of Nikolai Gogol (Harvard UP, 1979), writes that Mirgorod is “a pivotal work in Gogol's development and his most personally revealing book. As such, it is particularly inviting to psychoanalytic interpretation.” We should take "pivotal," even more so than "personal," as an antecedent of Fanger's "as such." For Mirgorod occupies a crucial transitional place between the more conventional Dikanka Evenings and the often anthologized Petersburg Tales: if the former foregrounds the "mystery of love," a mystery that sharpens into an impenetrable riddle in the latter (as Hugh McLean first observed), Mirgorod poses a troubling challenge to desire altogether. It resists analysis, decomposes structure, and to date has evaded monographic study. This study takes seriously Lacan's claim that the work of fiction is a "forgery of the unconscious," but not mimetic of anything; it reads Gogol to the letter when he subtitles Mirgorod "Tales Serving As a Continuation of Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka," in place of the expected continuation itself; and interprets as structure McLean's diachronic observation that Gogol's book, which begins "I love very much" and ends "It's dreary in this world, gentlemen," represents a "symbolic transition from love to non-love." On this foundation it argues that Mirgorod forges a perverse symptom that implicates its reader. For Gogol's subtitle, in which Mirgorod stands in place of the absent sequel to Dikanka, is congruent with the role of the letter in the unconscious, as a "symbol only of an absence" (Lacan), while the pivot in the attitudes toward love inscribed in its opening and closing words is precisely the perverse "wish for a father's Law that reveals its absence" (Rothenberg and Foster). Perversion is the awful masquerading as the lawful. It is built upon the disavowal of the choice of submission to a limiting signifier and the repeated, ritualized stagings of this choice, whose aim is to bring desire into fleeting existence.


Professor Romanchuk's appearance was organized by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, with support from the Humanities Center.


Robert Romanchuk of Florida State University will discuss Gogol’s Mirgorod during this Humanities Center Lecture.