Nikolai Gogol Nos Criticism - Essay

A. L. Bem (essay date 1928)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Bem, A. L. “‘The Nose’ and The Double.” In Dostoevsky and Gogol: Texts and Criticism, edited by Priscilla Meyer and Stephen Rudy, pp. 229–48. Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis, 1979.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1928, Bem evaluates the influence of Gogol's “The Nose” on Fyodor Dostoevsky's novella The Double.]

I could tell you much about how … he, with his own typical atomistic analysis, perceived the character of Gogol's works.

From a letter of Dr. Yanovsky to A.G. Dostoevsky

“My God! My God! Why such misfortune?”


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Herbert E. Bowman (essay date 1953)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Bowman, Herbert E. “‘The Nose.’” Slavonic and East European Review 31, no. 76 (December 1953): 204–11.

[In the following essay, Bowman surveys the critical reaction to “The Nose” and offers his own interpretation of Gogol's story.]

‘… Nevertheless, if you think over all this, there really is something in it.’

—N. Gogol', ‘The Nose’


In September 1836 Aleksandr Pushkin published in his literary journal The Contemporary a story entitled ‘The Nose’, written by Nikolay Gogol'. Pushkin prefaced the story with a note, which...

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Peter C. Spycher (essay date 1963)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Spycher, Peter C. “N. V. Gogol's ‘The Nose’: A Satirical Comic Fantasy Born of an Impotence Complex.” Slavic and East European Journal 7, no. 4 (winter 1963): 361–74.

[In the following essay, Spycher discusses sexual symbolism in “The Nose,” asserting that the loss of the nose symbolizes a loss of sexual power.]

The story “The Nose”1 has everywhere and always met with a great deal of mirth and with an equal amount of puzzlement once the question of its meaning has been raised.2

One of the more recent Gogol' biographers, V. Setchkarev, has advanced the following, at first rather alluring and certainly very...

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Ivan Yermakov (essay date 1974)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Yermakov, Ivan. “‘The Nose.’” In Gogol from the Twentieth Century: Eleven Essays, edited by Robert A. Maguire, pp. 156–98. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974.

[In the following essay, Yermakov offers a psychoanalytic interpretation of “The Nose,” asserting that Gogol's tale is an exploration of sexual desire and repression.]


“What are you laughing at?—You're laughing at yourselves.”

—Gogol, The Inspector General

Before undertaking an analysis of Gogol's story “The Nose,” I ought to offer some justification for my...

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Thaïs S. Lindstrom (essay date 1974)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Lindstrom, Thaïs S. “The Petersburg Cycle.” In Nikolay Gogol, pp. 83–88. New York: Twayne, 1974.

[In the following excerpt, Lindstrom discusses the elements of comic-grotesque and social satire in “The Nose.”]

“The Nose” is a gem apart. Pushkin acclaimed it as a merry, fantastic jest, and at first blush it does seem to be a hilarious tour de force, something made out of nothing, with the exact proportion of ingredients needed to produce a completely successful “tall” story: a preposterous event in a realistic framework reinforced with comic but credible incidents, a total lack of compassion for all concerned, and an atmosphere of suspense...

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Simon Karlinsky (essay date 1976)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Karlinsky, Simon. “Surrealism: ‘The Nose.’” In The Sexual Labyrinth of Nikolai Gogol, pp. 123–30. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976.

[In the following excerpt, Karlinsky views “The Nose” as a work of surrealist fiction.]

The world inhabited by the protagonists of the St. Petersburg stories is a threatening world of sudden reversals, deceptive appearances, and unimagined danger emerging from unsuspected quarters. In “The Portrait” this state of affairs is attributed to the mystically corrupting power of money and to the machinations of the Antichrist; in “Nevsky Prospect” to the demon of deception who lights the lanterns so that...

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William Woodin Rowe (essay date 1976)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Rowe, William Woodin. “Tales.” In Through Gogol's Looking Glass: Reverse Vision, False Focus, and Precarious Logic, pp. 100–06. New York: New York University Press, 1976.

[In the following excerpt, Rowe asserts that “The Nose” represents a reversal of the realms of waking and sleeping, reality and dream.]

Viktor Vinogradov has extensively related this strange story to what he terms the “nosology” that pervaded the literary and non-literary atmosphere of the 1820s and 1830s.1 He has also related “The Nose” to mentions of noses in many of Gogol's other writings, including a letter in which Gogol confused “a furious desire” to be...

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Donald Fanger (essay date 1979)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Fanger, Donald. “Beginnings: Fiction.” In The Creation of Nikolai Gogol, pp. 85–124. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979.

[In the following excerpt, Fanger asserts that “The Nose” is a meta-narrative that explores the creative act of fiction writing.]

[Gogol's “The Nose” begins]: “On March 25 an unusually strange occurrence took place in Petersburg.” The occurrence in question is the unaccountable disappearance of the nose of another ambitious civil servant, its metamorphic adventures while independent, and his frantic pursuit of it until it reappears mysteriously in place—a happy ending for a character who doesn't deserve one. The...

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Richard Peace (essay date 1981)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Peace, Richard. “‘The Nose.’” In The Enigma of Gogol: An Examination of the Writings of N. V. Gogol and Their Place in the Russian Literary Tradition, pp. 130–41. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

[In the following excerpt, Peace discusses the element of absurdity in “The Nose.”]

Major Kovalev had the habit of strolling every day along the Nevsky Prospekt. The collar of his shirt front was always extremely clean and starched. His side whiskers were of the sort that one can see even now on provincial and Ukrainian regional land surveyors, architects and regimental doctors, as well as those performing various police...

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James B. Woodward (essay date 1981)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Woodward, James B. “‘The Nose.’” In The Symbolic Art of Gogol: Essays on His Short Fiction, pp. 63–87. Colombus, OH: Slavica, 1982.

[In the following excerpt, originally published in 1981, Woodward contends that “The Nose” describes an allegorical war between the sexes in which the masculine triumphs over the feminine.]

If “Old-World Landowners” is the most deceptive of Gogol's stories, “The Nose” is certainly the most perplexing. Naturally enough, there are still many readers who readily invoke Pushkin's description of the tale as “a joke” and argue fervently that any attempt to interpret its bizarre content as expressive of some...

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William Edward Brown (essay date 1986)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Brown, William Edward. “Nikolai Gogol: St. Petersburg Stories and Comedies.” In A History of Russian Literature of the Romantic Period, Volume Four, pp. 306–11. Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis, 1986.

[In the following excerpt, Brown maintains that “The Nose” should not be interpreted as a story containing a moral message, but should be understood as a tale which “exists for itself.”]

“The Nose,”1 … is one of the most complex, and certainly one of the most controversial things that Gogol ever wrote. The most diverse interpretations have been put upon it, from the solemn Marxist orthodoxy, that it was written as an expose of the vulgar,...

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Ann Shukman (essay date 1989)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Shukman, Ann. “Gogol's ‘The Nose’ or the Devil in the Works.” In Nikolay Gogol: Text and Context, edited by Jane Grayson and Faith Wigzell, pp. 64–82. London: Macmillan, 1989.

[In the following essay, Shukman asserts that a valid interpretation of “The Nose” must take into account that which is excluded from the narrative through various omissions, digressions, and ellipses.]

If ‘The Nose’ had been written in French or English, or if, on the other hand, post-structuralism had taken root in Moscow and Leningrad, Gogol's tale might well have become a proof text for deconstructive exegesis. Constructed on a pun, replete with paradoxes,...

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Reed Merrill (essay date 1990)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Merrill, Reed. “The Grotesque in Music: Shostakovich's Nose.Russian Literature Triquarterly, no. 23, (winter 1990): 303–14.

[In the following essay, Merrill discusses elements of the comic-grotesque in both Gogol's original short story “The Nose” and the 1930 operatic adaptation, The Nose.]

The difference between the comic side of things, and their cosmic side, depends upon one sibilant.

If parallel lines do not meet it is not because they cannot, but because they have other things to do.

—Vladimir Nabokov, Nikolai Gogol...

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Sergei Bocharov (essay date 1992)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Bocharov, Sergei. “Around ‘The Nose.’” In Essays on Gogol: Logos and the Russian Word, edited by Susanne Fusso and Priscilla Meyer, pp. 19–39. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1992.

[In the following essay, Bocharov considers Gogol's concern with noses as a recurring motif in his fiction, particularly in the short story “The Nose.”]

Skryeshi ikh v taine litsa Tvoego ot miatezha chelovecheska.

—Ps. 30:21

In the covert of thy presence [litso, “face”] thou hidest them from the plots of men.


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Thomas Seifrid (essay date 1993)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Seifrid, Thomas. “Suspicion Toward Narrative: The Nose and the Problem of Autonomy in Gogol's ‘Nos.’” Russian Review 52 (July 1993): 382–96.

[In the following essay, Seifrid situates “The Nose” within the context of Russian history.]

In the final version of “Nos” that Gogol prepared for his 1842 Sochineniia, it is 25 March when Kovalev discovers he has no nose and 7 April when the appendage mysteriously reappears.1 In light of Russian cultural history these dates can hardly appear innocent: the twelve-day gap between them is precisely that obtaining in the nineteenth century between Russia's Julian calendar and the Gregorian...

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Amos Oz (essay date 1996)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Oz, Amos. “With an Expression of Very Respectable Importance: On the Beginning of Gogol's ‘The Nose.’” In The Story Begins: Essays on Literature, pp. 28–36. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1996.

[In the following essay, Oz contends that the various distortions of logic in the telling of “The Nose” represents the garbled logic of Russian bureaucracy.]

“The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol first appeared in 1836, sixty years before Fontane's Effi Briest and ninety years before Agnon's “In the Prime of Her Life.” “The Nose” is the story of the nose of one Collegiate Assessor Kovalyov, a major by the name of Platon Kuzmich Kovalyov. This nose...

(The entire section is 2580 words.)