Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

Comparative Literature

First Advisor

J. Alexander Ogden

Abstract

The goal of this thesis is twofold: first, to explore the influence of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche on the Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, and second, to use Nietzsche’s unpublished essay “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense” (written 1873) to examine the problem of knowledge in Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita (written 1928-1940).

In existing scholarship on Bulgakov’s masterpiece The Master and Margarita, the novel’s epistemological underpinnings are a topic that remains relatively unacknowledged. The “supernatural” element presents an opportunity to examine the manner in which man interacts with unprecedented phenomena, that is, phenomena that do not correspond to his perception of reality. Critical scholarship tends to treat the “supernatural” element in the novel as merely an instrument to other ends. However, analysis of the supernatural in its own right exposes another layer of the text. If we use as a critical lens Friedrich Nietzsche’s essay about the construction of knowledge and the correlation of knowledge to reality, Bulgakov’s text becomes clearer despite the fact that these texts are essentially epistemological countercurrents. That is, while Nietzsche’s text ultimately reveals objectivity to be subjective, Bulgakov’s text conversely attempts to integrate the subjective into objectivity. An examination of the treatment of the supernatural element and its perception by the human element reveals man’s participation in the fashioning of knowledge and its boundaries, and the ultimately devaluing effects of a rationalistic worldview on experience.

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