The Superfluous Man in Russian Literature

(2159 words)
  • Ellen Chances (Princeton University )

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

“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, Oblomov, as part of a negative tendency on the part of R…

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Chances, Ellen. "The Superfluous Man in Russian Literature". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 11 February 2011
[, accessed 28 September 2016.]

Related Groups

  1. Comparative Literature, Reception, Influences