The theoretical and text-analytical perspectives of this article are inseparably linked. In Act 3 of Chekhov's The Seagull, the young Nina gives the famous writer Trigorin, with whom she is falling in love, a medallion with inscribed page-and-line reference to a sentence from one of his novels: “If you should ever need my life, then come and take it.”In terms of her relationship with Trigorin, Nina mixes the roles of addresser and addressee, confessing her love for him through his own published words. In terms of Chekhov's text, this scene is a crucial element in a play designed inter alia to explore interactions between art and reality. Starting with detailed textual analyses of the engraved sentence itself and the scene in which it appears, this article draws ever-widening circles around them,examining characterizations; major features of Chekhov's poetics; literary reference and fact/fiction interactions as a theoretical problem in literary studies (with Benjamin Harshav's theory as a point of departure); the“legitimacy” of using biographical material in the analysis of fictional works; literary allusion; passivity and activity in art and reality;and the reciprocal interrelationships between art and reality, ranging from mirroring to interpenetration. The engraved sentence, a well-known quote from an earlier Chekhov story, had been first used by a woman who confessed her love for him through an inscribed medallion. Chekhov used the same object as a prop in the premiere of The Seagull. The quoted sentence is also strongly influenced by a sentence from Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. Hardly mentioned in the literature, this latter fact further demonstrates the potentially endless chain of art/life embeddings, which in this case begins with Dostoyevsky and ends, potentially temporarily for the present reader, with the act of reading the present study.
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Harai Golomb; Referential Reflections around a Medallion: ReciprocalArt/Life Embeddings in Chekhov's The Seagull. Poetics Today 1 December 2000; 21 (4): 681–709. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-21-4-681
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