Disputes about document, fact, fiction, and plagiarism in the early 20th century literature

Abstract: 

The article deals with the issues of documentalism (“human document”) and with the correlation of fact and fiction in literature, discussed in Russian literary criticism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The research has shown how fictional and documentary genres, active in the Russian literature at the turn of the century, raised the problem of evaluating and interpreting these literary phenomena. The article analyzes literary-critical discussions, related to the attitude of critics to such genres as diaries, memoirs, and letters. The analysis is based on publications from the journals “Knizhki Nedeli”, “Severnyi Vestnik”, “Russkii vestnik”, “Russkaia mysl'”, “Zvezda”, and “Vseobshchii Ezhemesyachnik”. This interest of criticism in literary documentalism intensified the problem of developing an adequate critical language for its interpretation and evaluation. The article deals with the use of the “human document” concept, which came to Russian criticism from French sources (E. Zola, I. Tan, E. Goncourt). The discussions about “Notes of a Doctor” by V. Veresaev, “The Diary” by M. Bashkirtseva, and about the works of P. Boborykin are examples of complicated, ambiguous attitudes of literary criticism to the problems of non-fiction and fiction. We also consider the problem of plagiarism as a consequence of the new attitude to the material in art that lies outside fiction.

Key words: 

literary criticism, documentalism, fiction, plagiarism, V. Veresaev, M. Bashkirtseva, P. Boborykin.

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