Slavic Sins of the Flesh is Focus of UNH Professor's New Book
By Lori Wright, Media Relations
September 2, 2009
Much has been written about Russia’s literary giants Dostoevsky and
Tolstoy, but a new book takes a provocative new look at the writing of these
masters by analyzing their use of eating as an expression for male sexual desire.
“Slavic Sins of the Flesh” (University of New Hampshire Press, 2009)
by Ronald LeBlanc, professor of Russian and humanities, has been hailed as
a path-breaking “gastro-critical” approach to the poetics of
Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and their contemporaries.
The book is the first study to appraise the representation of food and sexuality
in the 19th century Russian novel. Meticulously researched and elegantly and
accessibly written, “Slavic Sins of the Flesh” sheds new
light on classic literary creations as it examines how authors Nikolai Gogol,
Ivan Goncharov, Grigory Kvitka-Osnovyanenko, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Lev Tolstoy
used eating in their works as a trope for male sexual desire.
“The treatment of carnal desire in these renowned works of fiction stimulated
a generation of young writers to challenge Russian culture’s anti-eroticism,
supreme spirituality, and utter disregard for the life of the body, so firmly
rooted in centuries of ideological domination by the Russian Orthodox Church,” LeBlanc
LeBlanc’s book has received critical acclaim from Russian and Slavic scholars.
“ ‘Slavic Sins of the Flesh’ offers a magisterial
new reading of the Russian classics. It not only illuminates the great works
of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy but also tackles larger, underlying questions of
Russian culture. By analyzing representations of power and pleasure in texts
both familiar and obscure, LeBlanc explores the ideals that shaped Russian
society. This book is a triumph of scholarship and innovation,” said Darra Goldstein, Francis
Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Russian at Williams College and
editor of “Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture.”
“Ronald LeBlanc has written a marvelous study of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
from the perspective of ‘gastro-criticism.’ His comparison of the
alimentary and psycho-sexual dynamics in their works leads to an intriguing analysis
of their influences on early twentieth-century Russian and Soviet literature.
A book to be both tasted and devoured by all readers interested in the Russian
novel and early Soviet fiction,” said Eric Naiman, professor of Slavic
and comparative literature at the University of California-Berkeley.
LeBlanc is a professor of Russian and humanities at the University of New Hampshire
and research associate at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies
at Harvard University. He is the author of “The Russianization of Gil
Blas: A Study in Literary Appropriation” and many scholarly book
chapters, articles, and book reviews.