Performing Criminal Investigations: Scenes of Confrontation and Interrogation in Late Imperial Russian Crime Fiction

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPresentation


Early Russian crime fiction (1860s onwards) depicts numerous scenes of interrogation and confrontation between investigators, criminals and witnesses, many of which are imbued with a keen sense of themselves as both performance and performative. The metaphor of the stage, and of the detective as both actor and audience member, is also one that is encountered frequently in examples of the genre from this period. This paper therefore seeks to analyze instances of, and allusions to, performance in late Imperial Russian crime fiction in an effort to understand its intentions and consequences for reader interpretation. The paper will open with a discussion of the stage metaphor encountered in the opening of Nikolai Sokolovskii’s Prison and Life: From the Notes of an Investigator (1866) and its relationship to notions of visibility and observation elaborated by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish (1975). It will then move on to consider the poetics of performance that pertain in the various scenes of ochnaia stavka (face-to-face confrontation) between criminals and witnesses that the genre describes. The final section of the paper will offer a reading of the staging of more collective confrontation scenes, such as that in Semyon Panov’s Murder in Medveditsa Village (1872), where the performance of a public confession of guilt in front of one’s peers is of such central significance. The paper will take into account recent critical work on the coercive force of dialogue and the politics of listening in order to advance our understanding of Russian crime fiction’s cultural significance.
Period6 Dec 20189 Dec 2018
Event titleASEEES 2018 Annual Convention
Event typeConference
LocationBoston, United StatesShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational