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Genre Fragmentation in Nikolai Gogol's “The Overcoat”

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Throughout his oeuvre, Gogol's prose is marked by fragmentation and disintegration. Gogol typically employs fragments in the form of garments, body parts, and even literal particles (the sugar imagery in his novel Dead Souls). He continues and refines this practice in his short-story masterpiece “The Overcoat,” applying fragmentation to the very structure of this tale. “The Overcoat” is a generically fragmented piece, and different genres “jockey for position” within a single work. The following genres play a significant role: hagiography, the physiological sketch, the gothic tale, bureaucratic prose plus the oral tale, and the society tale. Gogol parodies and travesties these genres, in effect doubling them and therefore fragmenting them further. Moreover, “foreign” genres - the society tale, the physiological sketch, bureaucratic prose - emerge as usurpers (contaminators) of hagiography. Gogol replicates images with structure to underscore his anti-Western stance and defend intrinsically Russian culture.


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