On Laughter and Dreaming in Pushkin
Abstract: This article argues that the dreams depicted in Alexander Pushkin’s poems, plays and stories often concern the nature of social relations and the dynamics of social power and social impotence. It argues that moments of scornful dream-laughter and merriment are central to Pushkin’s negotiation of intersubjectivity: in the moment of being laughed at, the dreamer is made aware of how powerfully he or she has internalized the opinions and attitudes of others. This article argues that Pushkin’s dreams follow a distinctive schema, in which laughter engenders a simultaneous alienation and envelopment in a dream, and that this in turn causes a state that resembles what sociologists call social death. This article treats dreams throughout Pushkin’s corpus and relies on Bakhtin, Max Scheler, Orlando Patterson, and Plato to offer a theoretical model for the perils and powers of social life depicted in Pushkin’s work.
Key Terms: Pushkin, dreaming, laughter, social death, intersubjectivity, carnival, Bakhtin.