No major Russian author has been more thoroughly translated into American culture than the master of the short story, playwright, and socially committed physician Anton Chekhov (1860-1904). Chekhov's writings and his person have had an exceptionally strong hold on the American imagination since the first British translations of his work crossed the Atlantic in the early twentieth century. Many distinguished American authors have openly acknowledged Chekhov's influence and responded to him in their own writings, and as a playwright Chekhov figures second only to Shakespeare in the frequency of performances on American stages. Physicians with an interest in literature have been particularly drawn to the life and writings of Chekhov, and he figures prominently in thinking and teaching in the new field of medical humanities.
This interdisciplinary volume issues from a 2004 symposium, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), marking the centennial of Chekhov's death. Contributors include the most outstanding American translators of Chekhov's prose and drama, leading Chekhov literary scholars, historians, theater critics and artists, prominent authors of fiction and popular criticism, and physicians and other health-care professionals. The articles and transcripts of roundtables and interviews in this volume reflect on the various angles of vision that have produced the Chekhov--or, more accurately, Chekhovs--we now know. Together they ask: if for Russians Chekhov arguably defines what it is to be a humanist in the modern era, what have the man and his writings meant in the American cultural context, particularly in the last quarter century, and how and why has this varied across disciplinary boundaries? Ultimately, such questions lead to more fundamental ones about the humanities.
The book includes a DVD recording of an interview with Dr. Robert Coles, who discusses William Carlos Williams, Chekhov, and his own career as physician and author.
"To trace the influence of Chekhov on contemporary fiction is like searching for the original cutting from which a vast plant has grown."--Claire Messud
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Michael Finke is Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is author of "Metapoesis: The Russian Tradition from Pushkin to Chekhov" (Duke, 1995) and "Seeing Chekhov: Life and Art" (Cornell, 2005), and co-editor of "One Hundred Years of Masochism: Literary Texts, Social and Cultural Contexts" (Rodopi, 2000).
Julie de Sherbinin is Professor of Russian Language and Literature at Colby College. She is co-founder of the North American Chekhov Society and author of "Chekhov and Russian Religious Culture" (Northwestern, 1997).
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