Author: Elena M. Kudryavtseva
Information about the author:

Junior Researcher, Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkinskiy Dom) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Makarova emb. 4, 199034 St. Petersburg, Russia.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For citation:

Kudryavtseva, E.M. “Reader and Writer: Poor Liza (1792) by Nikolay Karamzin and Notes from Underground (1864) by Fyodor Dostoevsky.” Dostoevsky and World Culture. Philological journal, no. 1 (25), 2024, pp. 62–91. (In Russ.)

Received: 14 Aug. 2023
Published: 25 Mar. 2024
Issue: 2024 no. 1 (25)
Pages: 62-91

UDK: 821.161.1.0
BBK: 83.3(2=411.2)
Keywords: Notes from Underground, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Poor Liza, Nikolay Karamzin, idyll, homo legens, reader, writer.
Abstract: The article analyses the image of homo legens in Poor Liza by Nikolay Karamzin and Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The novelist considers Karamzin’s short story as a part of the process of the knowledge of the human being in the 19th century. In contrast to positivist philosophical knowledge, which, according to Dostoevsky, simplifies the phenomenon of the person, the writer, with the help of Karamzin’s artistic discoveries in the short story Poor Liza, creates the image of the Underground Man as a person who both reads and writes. Typologically, the encounter of the dreamer with a girl in Notes from Underground repeats the situation in Poor Liza. Erast dreams of an idyll and “invents” his future life with Liza according to the laws of the genre, while the peasant woman, unlike the reading hero, understands that dreams cannot be realized. In Dostoevsky’s novella the situation is more complicated. Following literary models, the Underground Man creates two stories in an idyllic and anti-idyllic key, in order to manipulate the soul of another person and to affirm himself. At first, Liza does not believe the words of the visitor or the possibility of leaving the brothel. The Underground Man prefaces his stories with two biblical quotations: “the image and likeness of God” and “lay down your life for the sake of friends.” He introduces the sacred as a means of manipulation of the heroine’s feelings. Having identified these quotations, Liza sincerely believes in the possibility of leaving the brothel and offers her love to the dreamer, which the author sees as an opportunity for him to come out of “the underground.” The hero cannot accept this chance. By creating the image of homo legens in Notes from Underground Dostoevsky shows that a chaotic and blind adherence to literary genres, situations, and gestures together with the manipulation of both literary and sacred texts places man in a position of insoluble conflict with “living life.”


1. Arkhipova, A.V. “Dostoevskii i Karamzin” [“Dostoevsky and Karamzin”]. Dostoevskii. Materialy i issledovaniia [Dostoevsky. Materials and Research], vol. 5. St. Petersburg, Nauka Publ., 1983, pp. 101–112. (In Russ.)

2. Ariès, Philippe. Rebenok i semeinaia zhizn’ pri Starom poriadke [The Child and Family Life in the Ancien Régime]. Trans. from French by Ia.Iu. Startsev, together with V.A. Babintsev. Ekaterinburg, Izd.-vo Ural’skogo un-ta Publ., 1999. 416 p. (In Russ.)

3. Bakhtin, M.M. “Formy vremeni i khronotopa v romane: Ocherki po istoricheskoi poetike” [“Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel: Notes towards a Historical Poetics”]. Bakhtin, M.M. Voprosy literatury i estetiki [Questions of Literature and Aesthetics]. Moscow, Khudozhestvennaia literatura Publ., 1975, pp. 234–407. (In Russ.)

4. Bakhtin, M.M. “Problemy tvorchestva Dostoevskogo” [“Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics”]. Bakhtin, M.M. Sobranie sochinenii: v 7 tomakh [Collected Works: in 7 vols], vol. 6. Moscow, Russkie slovari. Iazyki slavianskoi kul’tury Publ., 2002, pp. 5–300. (In Russ.)

5. Bem, A.L. “Dostoevskii — genial’nyi chitatel’” [“Dostoevsky, a Brilliant Reader”]. Bem, A.L. O Dostoevskom. Izbrannye raboty [About Dostoevsky. Selected Works]. Moscow, Iurait Publ., 2019, pp. 4–19. Available at:–dostoevskom–izbrannye–raboty–493899 (Accessed 11 Dec. 2022) (In Russ.)

6. Blagoi, D.D. Literatura i deistvitel’nost’. Voprosy teorii i istorii literatury [Literature and Reality. Questions on Theory and History of Literature]. Moscow, Khudozhestvennaia literatura Publ., 1959, pp. 273–283. (In Russ.)

7. Budanova, N.F. “‘Zapiski iz podpol’ia’ F.M. Dostoevskogo. Nekrasovskii tekst i podtekst” [“Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground. Nekrasov’s Text and Subtext”]. Russkaia literatura, no. 2, 2015, pp. 148–155. (In Russ.)

8. Bulanov, A.M. “Um” i “Serdtse” v russkoi klassike: Sootnoshenie ratsional’nogo i emotsional’nogo v torchestve I.A. Goncharova, F.M. Dostoevskogo, L.N. Tolstogo [“Mind” and “Heart” in Russian Classics: The Relation Between Rational and Emotional in Ivan Goncharov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Lev Tolstoy]. Saratov, Izd.-vo Sarat. un-ta Publ., 1992. 157 p. (In Russ.)

9. Givens, John. Obraz Khrista v russkoi literature. Dostoevskii, Tolstoi, Bulgakov, Pasternak [The Image of Christ in Russian Literature. Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Bulgakov, Pasternak]. Boston, Academic Studies Press; St. Petersburg, BiblioRossika Publ., 2021. 351 p. (In Russ.)

10. Gippius, V.V. “Povesti Belkina” [“The Belkin Tales”]. Gippius, V.V. Ot Pushkina do Bloka [From Pushkin to Blok]. Ed. by G.M. Fridlender. Moscow; Leningrad, Nauka Publ., 1996, pp. 7–45. (In Russ.)

11. Golovchenko, G.A. “Obraz devushki Lizy kak odin iz skvoznykh obrazov klassicheskoi russkoi literatury” [“The Image of the Girl Liza as a Recurring Image of Classic Russian Literature”]. Iazyk. Slovesnost’. Kul’tura, no. 6, 2013, pp. 89–104. (In Russ.)

12. Dostoevskii, F.M. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii: v 30 tomakh [Complete Works: in 30 vols]. Leningrad, Nauka Publ., 1972–1990. (In Russ.)

13. Dostoevskii, F.M. Zapiski iz podpol’ia. Igrok [Notes from Underground. The Gambler]. Articles by B.N. Tikhomirov, A.L. Dmitrienko, K. Parker; comm. by B.N. Tikhomirov. St. Petersburg, Vita Nova Publ., 2011. 512 p. (In Russ.)

14. Dostoevskii, F.M. Polnoe sobranie sochienii i pisem: v 35 tomakh [Complete Works and Letters: in 35 vols]. St. Petersburg, Nauka Publ., 2013–continuing publication. (In Russ.)

15. Zhivolupova, N.V. Problema avtorskoi pozitsii v ispovedal’nom povestvovanii Dostoevskogo 60-70-kh godov (“Zapiski iz podpol’ia”, “Podrostok”) [The Question of the Author’s Place in Dostoevsky’s Confessional Narrative of 60s and 70s (Notes from Underground, The Adolescent)]. Nizhnyi Novgorod, Diatlovy gory Publ., 2018. 229 p. (In Russ.)

16. Zhiliakova, E.M. Traditsii sentimentalizma v tvorchestve rannego Dostoevskogo (1844-1849) [The Tradition of Sentimentalism in Dostoevsky’s Early Works (1844-1849)]. Tomsk, Tomsk University Publ., 1989. 272 p. (In Russ.)

17. Zhiliakova, E.M. “Sintez epicheskogo i dramaticheskogo nachal v tvorchestve F.M. Dostoevskogo (ot romana ‘Igrok’ k rasskazu ‘Vechnyi muzh’)” [“The Synthesis of Epic and Dramatic Elements in Dostoevsky’s Works (from the Novel The Gambler to the Story ‘The Eternal Husband’)”]. Iurkova, N.M., Shchennikov, G.K., and R.G. Nazirov, eds. Tvorchestvo F.M. Dostoevskogo: iskusstvo sinteza [Dostoevsky’s Works: The Art of Synthesis]. Ekaterinburg, Izd-vo Ural’skogo un-ta Publ., 1991, pp. 182–203. (In Russ.)

18. Karamzin, N.M. Izbrannye sochineniia: v 2 tomakh [Selected Works: in 2 vols]. Moscow; Leningrad, Khudozhestvennaia literatura Publ., 1964. (In Russ.)

19. Kasatkina, T.A. “Bogoslovie Dostoevskogo: problemy ponimaniia i opisaniia” [“Dostoevsky’s Theology: Problems of Understanding and Description”]. Dostoevskii i mirovaia kul’tura. Filologicheskii zhurnal, no. 3 (7), 2019, pp. 16–33. (In Russ.)

20. Kasatkina, T.A. “Dostoevskii: teoriia tvorchestva i teoriia vospriatiia iskusstva” [“Dostoevsky: Theory of Art and Theory of the Perception of Art”]. Voprosy literatury, no. 6, 2022, pp. 62–81. (In Russ.)

21. Kochetkova, N.D. “Geroi sentimentalizma. 1. Chtenie v zhizni ‘chuvstvitel’nogo’ geroia” [“Heroes of Sentimentalism. 1. Reading in the Life of a ‘Sentimental’ Hero”]. XVIII vek: Sbornik statei i materialov, vol. 14, 1983, pp. 121–142. (In Russ.)

22. Kochetkova, N.D. “Problema ‘lozhnoi chuvstvitel’nosti’ v literature russkogo sentimentalizma” [“The Problem of ‘False Feelings’ in Russian Sentimental Literature”]. XVIII vek: Sbornik statei i materialov, vol. 17, 1991, pp. 61–72. (In Russ.)

23. Kochetkova, N.D. Literatura russkogo sentimentalizma (Esteticheskie i khudozhestvennye iskaniia) [Literature of Russian Sentimentalism (Aesthetic and Artistic Searches)]. St. Petersburg, Nauka Publ., 1994. 279 p. (In Russ.)

24. Krinitsyn, A.B. “Povest’ ‘Bednaia Liza’ N.M. Karamzina v tvorchestve F.M. Dostoevskogo” [“Nikolay Karamzin’s Short Story Poor Liza in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Works”]. Vestnik Moskovskogo universiteta. Seriia 9: Filologiia, no. 2, 2017, pp. 102–116. (In Russ.)

25. Kross, A.G. “Raznovidnosti idillii v tvorchestve Karamzina” [“Varieties of Idylls in Karamzin’s Work”]. XVIII vek: Derzhavin, Karamzin v literaturnom dvizhenii XVIII – nachala XIX vv. [18th Century: Derzhavin, Karamzin in Literary Movement 18th–Early 19th Centuries], issue 8. Leningrad, Nauka Publ., 1969, pp. 210–228. Available at: (Accessed 11 Dec. 2022) (In Russ.)

26. Liapushkina, E.I. Russkaia idilliia XIX veka i roman I.A. Goncharova “Oblomov” [Russian Idyll in the 19th Century and Goncharov’s Novel Oblomov]. St. Petersburg, Izd-vo S.-Peterb. gos. un-ta Publ., 1996. 147 p. (In Russ.)

27. Markovich, V.M. “‘Povesti Belkina’ i literaturnyi kontekst” [“The Belkin Tales and Literary Context”]. Pushkin: Issledovaniia i materialy [Pushkin: Research and Materials], vol. 13. Leningrad, Nauka Publ., 1989, pp. 63–87. (In Russ.)

28. Meerson, O.A. “Bibleiskie interteksty u Dostoevskogo. Koshchunstvo ili bogoslovie liubvi” [“Biblical Intertext in Dostoevsky. Blasphemy or Theology of Love”]. Dostoevskii i mirovaia kul’tura. Al’manakh, no. 12, 1999, pp. 40–53. (In Russ.)

29. Mikhnovets, N.G. “‘Zapiski iz podpol’ia’: problema puti” [“Notes from Underground: The Question of the Path”]. Dostoevskii, F. Zapiski iz podpol’ia: Povest’ [Notes from Underground: A Short Story]. St. Petersburg, Azbuka Publ., 2014, pp. 15–18. (In Russ.)

30. Oleinik, V.T. “Karamzin i istoriia russkoi literatury XIX v.” [“Karamzin and the History of Russian Literature in the 19th Century”]. Literaturovedcheskii zhurnal, no. 40, 2017, pp. 53–73. (In Russ.)

31. Orwin, Donna. Sledstviia samosoznaniia. Turgenev, Dostoevskii, Tolstoi [Consequences of Selfconsciousness. Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy]. Trans. from English by A.G. Gordetskaia. St. Petersburg, Academic Studies Press / Bibliorossika Publ., 2022. 351 p. (In Russ.)

32. Ostolpov, N.F. “Idillia” [“Idyll”]. Slovar’ drevnei i novoi poezii [Vocabulary of Ancient and New Poetry]. St. Petersburg, Tip. Imp. Ak. Nauk Publ., 1821, pp. 9–26. (In Russ.)

33. Polotskaia, E.A. “Literaturnye motivy v rasskaze Dostoevskogo ‘Krotkaia’” [“Literary Motifs in Dostoevsky’s Short Story ‘A Gentle Creature’”]. Dostoevskii: Materialy i issledovaniia [Dostoevsky: Materials and Research], vol. 11. Leningrad, Nauka Publ., 1994, pp. 259–266. (In Russ.)

34. Prashcheruk, N.V. “‘Vechnyi muzh’ i ‘Bednaia Liza’: o dvukh proizvedeniiakh russkoi klassiki” [“‘The Eternal Husband’ and Poor Liza: About Two Russian Classics”]. Ural’skii filologicheskii vestnik. Seriia Russkaia klassika: dinamika khudozhestvennykh sistem, issue 2, 2007, pp. 207–218. (In Russ.)

35. Rovinskii, D.A. Russkie narodnye kartinki [Russian Folk Pictures], book 3: Pritchi i listy dukhovnye [Proverbs and Spiritual Sheets]. St. Petersburg, Tip. Imp. Ak. Nauk Publ., 1881. 751 p. (In Russ.)

36. Stepanov, A.G. “Idillia” [“Idyll”]. Poetika: slovar’ aktual’nykh terminov i poniatii [Poetics: Dictionary of Current Terms and Concepts]. Ed. by N.D. Tamarchenko. Moscow, Izda-vo Kulaginoi; Intrada Publ., 2008, pp. 77–78. (In Russ.)

37. Thiergen, Peter. “Obrazy Arkadii v russkoi literature XVIII–XIX vv.” [“Images of the Arcadia in Russian Literature of the 18th–19th Centuries”]. Imagologiia i komparativistika, no. 2, 2015, pp. 69–110. Available at: (Accessed 13 Apr. 2023) (In Russ.)

38. Tikhomirov, B.N. “…Ia zanimaius’ etoi tainoi, ibo khochu byt’ chelovekom”: Stat’i i esse o Dostoevskom [“… I Am Studying This Mystery, Because I Want to Be a Man”: Articles and Essays on Dostoevsky]. St. Petersburg, Serebrianyi vek Publ., 2012. 504 p. (In Russ.)

39. Toporov, V.N. “Bednaia Liza” Karamzina: Opyt prochteniia: K dvukhsotletiiu so dnia vykhoda v svet [Karamzin’s Poor Liza: A Reading: For the 200th Anniversary of the Publication]. Moscow, Russian State University for the Humanities Publ., 1995. 512 p. (In Russ.)

40. Trebnik [Books of Prayers]. St. Petersburg, Izd. Sviato-Troitse-Sergievoi Lavry Publ., 1995. Available at:–grazhdanskim–shriftom.pdf (Accessed 08 May 2023) (In Russ.)

41. Chavdarova, D. Homo legens v russkoi literature XIX veka [Homo legens in 19th-Century Russian Literature]. Shumen, Aksios Publ., 1997. 141 p. (In Russ.)

42. Chernova, N.V. “Literaturnye pristrastia personazhei Dostoevskogo kak sposob ikh kharakteristiki” [“Literary Preferences of Dostoevsky’s Characters as a Way of Characterizing Them”]. Dostoevskii i mirovaia kul’tura. Al’manakh, no. 23, 2007, pp. 107–120. (In Russ.)

43. Chernova, N.V. “Posledniaia kniga Nastas’i Filippovny: sluchainost’ ili znak? (‘Geroinia s knigoi’ kak skvoznoi motiv v tvorchestve Dostoevskogo)” [“Nastasia Filippovna’s Last Book: A Casuality or a Sign? (‘Heroine with Book’ as a Current Motif in Dostoevsky’s Work”]. Dostoevskii. Materialy i issledovaniia [Dostoevsky. Materials and Research], vol. 19. St. Petersburg, Nauka Publ., 2010, pp. 192–202. (In Russ.)

44. Todorov, Tzvetan. “Le jeu de l’altérité: Notes d’un souterrain.” Poétique de la prose. Paris, Seuil, 1978, pp. 133–161. (In French)