Denis Ivanovich Fonvizin’s The Minor was, at its premiere, recognized as the first authentically Russian comic masterpiece in drama, and the play has never left the repertoire. It satirizes the ignorance of Russian country nobility, presenting Fonvizin’s abiding convictions about a close connection between education, honest people, and good government. The playwright’s earlier The Brigadier was the first Russian comedy of note to include realistic depiction of character and dialogue while transforming the conventional masks of neoclassical French comedy into Russian images satirizing social ills. The play also exposed to scorn the Frenchified Russians, victims of the pervasive mania for the Gallic of the late eighteenth century—a favorite topic of other Russian writers of the time. Fonvizin’s active participation in Catherine’s civil service made his attacks on stupid and brutal serf-owners resonate to the policy of the empress. Both The Brigadier and The Minor pleased the court of Catherine II with their didactic purpose while entertaining the audience with slapstick and wit adapted to the Russian scene and character.
Fonvizin contributed to the formation of the literary language of his time. While attacking the superficial French copied by Russian nobility in their subservience to French culture, he nevertheless incorporated French constructions into Russian speech, in the mouths of the educated characters...
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Gleason, Walter. Introduction to The Political and Legal Writings of Denis Fonvizin. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis Publishers, 1985. In this introduction to some of Fonvizin’s prose works, Gleason describes the life of the Russian dramatist and his political and social views, which permeated his writings. Bibliography.
Kochetkova, Natal’ia Dmitrievna. “Denis Ivanovich Fonvizin.” In Early Modern Russian Writers, Late Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Vol. 150 in Dictionary of Literary Biography, edited by Marcus C. Levitt. Detroit, Mich.: The Gale Group, 1995. A concise overview of the life and works of Fonvizin.
Moser, Charles A. Denis Fonvizin. Boston: Twayne, 1979. A basic biography of Fonvizin that covers his life and works. Bibliography and index.
Moser, Charles A. Fonvizin, Russia, and Europe. Washington, D.C.: Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, 1978. An examination of Fonvizin and Russia and Europe during the time in which he lived. Bibliography.
Offord, Derek. “Beware the Garden of Earthly Delights: Fonvizin and Dostoevskii on Life in France.” The Slavonic and East European Review 78, no. 4 (October, 2000): 625-642. Offord takes the view that Fonvizin and Fyodor Dostoevski represent a continuous literary tradition and examines how each depicted France.