Presentation Type

Presentation

Faculty Mentor’s Full Name

Ona Renner-Fahey

Faculty Mentor’s Department

Russian

Abstract

In his essays on Greek deities, Ralph Waldo Emerson declared: “Every man is a divinity in disguise, a god playing the fool.” While the idea of gods taking a corporeal form or angels walking among humans is a common literary trope, seldom do mortal characters find themselves compared to the divine without negative repercussions. Select post-Soviet women writers, however, flip this trope to explore the opposite. They instead embrace the human as holy, restrained by little consequence, as a means to highlight its destructive qualities in the context of an intimate relationship. These contemporary authors, Viktoria Tokareva and Lyudmila Ulitskaya, incorporate human divinity as a major thematic aspect in two of their short stories. By attributing divinity to their male partners, the characters of Tokareva and Ulitskaya demonstrate the danger in holding one’s partner to unrealistic standards.

Using Mary Ann Stenger’s critical theory on idolatry of the sexes as a point of departure, I will first examine the presence of idolatry in relationships, in addition to its similarities to objectification. Additionally, through research on each author’s background, I will establish a connection between post-Soviet women writers and themes of isolation and relationship conflict that often feature in their works. Ultimately, by introducing idolatry as a means of conflict, Tokareva and Ulitskaya provide commentary on the consequences of objectification in relationships. In Tokareva, idolatry robs a couple of the chance to be happy together, and in Ulitskaya, idolatry becomes a tool of abuse. This drives the male into isolation, alienating him entirely from society and preventing him from leading a fulfilling life.

Category

Humanities

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On Angels’ Wings: Tokareva and Ulitskaya's Use of Idolatry

In his essays on Greek deities, Ralph Waldo Emerson declared: “Every man is a divinity in disguise, a god playing the fool.” While the idea of gods taking a corporeal form or angels walking among humans is a common literary trope, seldom do mortal characters find themselves compared to the divine without negative repercussions. Select post-Soviet women writers, however, flip this trope to explore the opposite. They instead embrace the human as holy, restrained by little consequence, as a means to highlight its destructive qualities in the context of an intimate relationship. These contemporary authors, Viktoria Tokareva and Lyudmila Ulitskaya, incorporate human divinity as a major thematic aspect in two of their short stories. By attributing divinity to their male partners, the characters of Tokareva and Ulitskaya demonstrate the danger in holding one’s partner to unrealistic standards.

Using Mary Ann Stenger’s critical theory on idolatry of the sexes as a point of departure, I will first examine the presence of idolatry in relationships, in addition to its similarities to objectification. Additionally, through research on each author’s background, I will establish a connection between post-Soviet women writers and themes of isolation and relationship conflict that often feature in their works. Ultimately, by introducing idolatry as a means of conflict, Tokareva and Ulitskaya provide commentary on the consequences of objectification in relationships. In Tokareva, idolatry robs a couple of the chance to be happy together, and in Ulitskaya, idolatry becomes a tool of abuse. This drives the male into isolation, alienating him entirely from society and preventing him from leading a fulfilling life.