Passion Embracing Death : A reading of Nina Sadur's novel 'The Garden'

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This doctoral dissertation is an analysis of the novel 'The Garden' (1997), by the Russian author Nina Sadur. Drawing on feminist literary criticism, it aims at providing a woman-authored text with the in-depth study the novel’s literary sophistication calls for. The dissertation is divided into two parts:

Part One presents a linear reading of the novel in which it is read as ‘aberrant discourse’, i.e. as a literary text that suggests schizophrenia and/or alcoholic intoxication. Such discourse is by its very nature difficult to construe, which has prompted a reading that focuses on and discusses the text in great detail. In Part One, the novel’s prolific use of leitmotifs is noted, and relationships of similarity are found to be more important than questions of plot and character. The aberrant discourse abounds in allusions to myth and folklore, in which Russian love incantations emerge as a particularly important subtext.

Part Two involves a discussion of the novel as a whole. It is broken down into chapters that discuss aspects of time, space, gender, narrative perspective and symbols. The novel’s affinity to modernist aesthetics is illustrated by comparing it to the works of Andrej Belyj, and 'Petersburg' in particular. An attempt is made to draw in this reading on post-structuralist theory, but although such a framework proves somewhat useful, the novel’s preoccupation with magic in the end distances it substantially from post-structuralist theory. The novel is understood as dealing with two competing realities: the quotidian versus one with apparently mythical qualities. The latter appears as an inverted version of the ‘myth’ of Soviet ideology, a fictional myth that is unpleasantly corporeal in contrast to prudish Soviet ideals. Although gender relationships in the novel do not conform to traditionally patriarchal notions, it is nevertheless argued that this should not be understood as a strategy aimed at subverting patriarchal discursive power. Instead, the gender confusion in the novel is seen as a sign of the presence of underworld forces, which turn everything upside down and inside out. Finally, the influence of Russian love incantations’ portrayal of passion on the novel is shown: in both the incantations and the novel, passion is understood as an evil force that disintegrates a person’s integrity and brings him or her close to death.


  • Karin Sarsenov
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History and Archaeology


  • Ryska (språk och litteratur), Russian language and literature, gendered subjectivity, love incantations, socialist realism, chthonic forces, leitmotif, alcoholic discourse, schizoid discourse, aberrant discourse, Russian women's literature, General and comparative literature, literature criticism, literary theory, Allmän och jämförande litteratur, litteraturkritik, litteraturteori
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2001 Dec 8
  • Central and Eastern European Studies
Print ISBNs91-628-4977-8
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2001-12-08 Time: 10:15 Place: Plenary hall External reviewer(s) Name: Marsh, Rosalind Title: Prof. Affiliation: University of Bath ---