Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Ruth Zisman

Project Advisor 2

Olga Voronina

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Beginning in the 1850s, an obscure ideological movement called nihilism took root in Russian intellectual circles; by the 1870s this movement had turned into violent revolution. My project establishes a dialogue between three of the greatest Russian minds of the nineteenth century by analyzing and comparing the ways in which their lives and works speak about nihilism. The three canonical texts in question are Fathers and Sons by Turgenev, What is to Be Done? by Chernyshevsky, and Demons by Dostoevsky. My thesis claims that each author articulates a different definition, literary voice, and evaluation of nihilism. In assessing the lives and works, aspirations and shortcomings, and accuracies and paradoxes of each author, I hope to demonstrate the incredible flexibility of the term ‘nihilism.’ Three of the greatest Russian minds of the era toiled for over a decade to expound and communicate their interpretations of nihilism. Indeed, revaluating any concept-laden philosophical term is a persistent and contemporary project.

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