Self-Conscious Realism
Metafiction and the Nineteenth-Century Russian Novel

Margarita Vaysman

Legenda (General Series)


26 July 2021  •  174pp

ISBN: 978-1-781883-83-9 (hardback)  •  RRP £80, $110, €95

ISBN: 978-1-781883-86-0 (paperback, 21 December 2023  )

ISBN: 978-1-781883-89-1 (JSTOR ebook)

Access online: Books@JSTOR


In addition to its original library hardback edition, this title is now on sale in the new student-priced Legenda paperback range.

Does metafiction — the literary technique that forces readers to acknowledge that they are reading a work of fiction — have a hidden past? Margarita Vaysman’s insightful study challenges the view of metafiction as a postmodern phenomenon and reveals that it thrived in mid-nineteenth century in Russia. Practised by writers of disparate ideological persuasions, metafiction was the creative answer to the period’s twin preoccupations with politics and aesthetics. Moreover, it wove these contemporary debates into the very fabric of Russian literature’s most recognised genre -- the classic realist novel.

In Self-Conscious Realism, Vaysman examines metafiction’s complex correlation with the Russian realist tradition in three novels from the 1860s: What Is to Be Done? (1863) by Nikolai Chernyshevskii, Troubled Seas (1863) by Aleksei Pisemskii, and A Woman’s Lot (1862) by Avdot’ia Panaeva. These case studies are richly contextualised by the writers’ diaries, letters, memoirs, and legal and financial documents.

Margarita Vaysman is a Lecturer in Russian at the University of St Andrews.


  • ‘Vaysman’s valuable work [...] encourage[s] further and more general scholarly accounts of the ways in which metapoetics worked as part of realism—and, more broadly, as part of the metapoetic aspect in the Russian cultural tradition.’ — Konstantine Klioutchkine, Russian Review 81.4, October 2022, 753-54
  • ‘Vaysman has carried out an original investigation into a neglected subject, defining her work as a contribution to current discussion of realist writing as a transnational phenomenon and arguing that classical Russian literature was exceptionally rich in self-conscious narrative at a time when such narrative was rare in the French and English realist traditions.’ — Derek Offord, Slavonic and East European Review 100.3, July 2022, 533-35
  • ‘Vaysman convincingly demonstrates that [nineteenth-century Russian novel] uses sophisticated narrative strategies that emphasize an uneasy relationship between the fictional worlds of literary texts and social reality [...]. Our hope is that the future of literary studies belongs to exactly this kind of studies: sophisticated and free from stereotypical approaches to its subjects.’ — Kirill Zubkov, Russian Literature 130, 2022, 95–109 (full text online)
  • ‘A well-researched, innovative analysis of metafiction in the nineteenth-century Russian realist novel... Overall, Vaysman’s engaging, timely study should be considered essential reading for scholars who seek to understand nineteenth-century Russian literature more thoroughly, as well as for anyone who is interested in the complex correlation between politics and aesthetics.’ — Melissa L. Miller, Modern Language Review 2024, 119.1, 172-74 (full text online)



Introduction: Blindspots of A Theory, Or the Curious Case of Russian Nineteenth-Century Metafiction
Margarita Vaysman


Chapter 1 the Political Self-Conscious: the Russian Novel in the 1860s
Margarita Vaysman


Chapter 2 A Matter For Debate
Margarita Vaysman


Chapter 3 An Author of A Different Kind
Margarita Vaysman


Chapter 4 A Woman’s Answer
Margarita Vaysman


Margarita Vaysman


Margarita Vaysman


Margarita Vaysman


Bibliography entry:

Vaysman, Margarita, Self-Conscious Realism: Metafiction and the Nineteenth-Century Russian Novel (Legenda, 2021)

First footnote reference: 35 Margarita Vaysman, Self-Conscious Realism: Metafiction and the Nineteenth-Century Russian Novel (Legenda, 2021), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Vaysman, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Vaysman, Margarita. 2021. Self-Conscious Realism: Metafiction and the Nineteenth-Century Russian Novel (Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Vaysman 2021: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Vaysman 2021: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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