The Superfluous Man in Russian Literature

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

Ellen Chances (Princeton University)
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“Superfluous man” [“lishnii chelovek”] is a term used to describe the alienated heroes of many nineteenth-century Russian literary writings. It was first used by the writer Ivan Turgenev in his 1850 work

The Diary of a Superfluous Man


Dnevnik lishnego cheloveka

]. The term was later used as a derogatory characterisation in the ideological warfare of the so-called generation of the 1860s “sons”, materialists who were against the generation of Romantic 1840s “fathers”. For example, one of the Russian radicals, Nikolai Dobroliubov, a member of the generation of “sons”, described Oblomov, the aristocratic protagonist of Ivan Goncharov’s novel,


, as part of a negative tendency on the part of Russian aristocrats not to value efficiency and a utilitarian approach to…

2159 words

Citation: Chances, Ellen. "The Superfluous Man in Russian Literature". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 11 February 2011 [, accessed 22 June 2024.]

14900 The Superfluous Man in Russian Literature 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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