Books for Children in the Russian Classics` Range of Reading: Methodological, Psycho-Pedagogical and Philosophical Potential of Russian Autobiographical Prose


The article is dedicated to the existential experience gained while reading books for children which is fixed by authors in Russian autobiographical prose. The event of reading is taken as catharsis and becomes an inner personal experience, thus it initializes person’s creative feedback, such as telling stories, stylizing manner of a taleteller (Aksakov’s Sergei Bagrov), improvising in producing stories (the narrator in Samuil Marshak’s autobiographical novel). This process correlates with pedagogical approach. We can observe a transformation of a reading person to a creative (writing) person, i.e. “homo legens” to “homo scribens”. This creativity later becomes the basis of forming a professional writer. Images and impressions of childhood are considered both as the initial point of artists' (writers') creativity and their individual creative styles. In the present research the subject was approached with a specific methodology: comparative-historical, historico-functional and structural typological methods. The research is performed on a wide variety of Russian autobiographical prose works of XIX-XX centuries: Sergey Aksakov, Maxim Gorky, Ivan Bunin, boris zaitsev, Ivan Shmelev, Korney Chukovsky and Samuil Marshak.

Keywords: Co-existence, humanization of education, “a reading person”, “a creative (writing) person”, autobiographical prose, philosophy, psychology, pedagogical methodology

1. Introduction

The urgency of studying the phenomenon of children's books in the reading circle of Russian

classics is the special interest for different humanities researchers in multicultural world.

The problem of the research is to find the effective methods of interaction between a reader and

children`s book. In Russian autobiographical prose, we can see the unique personal writer`s experience

of communication with a book. The names of these writers are included into the Russian native

literature. Such aspect of the problem gets the particular relevance in the intercultural communication.

In this case Russian classic becomes a carrier of the national consciousness and identity.

The search for answers is also represented in the article. What place does the children`s literature

take in the personal cognition and life experience? Didactic component of reading process is taken as

the basis of research problem. This component is implemented in the formation of initial skills, the next

step is to consolidate the communication skill with a book. Conditionally, such acquirement can be

defined as the discovery of own creative potential and as a metamorphosis: from a reading to a writing

person «homo legens — homo scribens».

Literature phenomenon in well-known classics’ childhood in the Russian autobiography based


The research considers methodical, philosophical, psychological and pedagogical

aspects of revealing the Russian autobiography based fiction potential.

In the present research the subject was approached with a specific methodology, comparative-

historical, historico-functional and structural typological.

In referring to writers’ life material P.N.Sakulin’s (Sakulin P.N., 1928) and V.I. Gusev’s (1999)

approach gained weight: they suggest seeing the Author as a literary phenomenon, as a way of

understanding his life views that are suggested in the style of his work. Our research is focused on

finding typological traits that are universal for autobiography as a genre and on connecting it to a

holistic approach in analysing the style of prose. Regarding an autobiographical prosaic text as a

stylistic phenomenon in Russian literary tradition of the XIX-XX centuries revealed the importance of

phenomena in the literary theory: the style of the époque and the author’s individual style. In the

tradition of V. Humboldt and A.A. Potebnya, academic P.N. Sakulin understood it as style «the idea's

image» or interior form. «It is the fact that each artist finds a unique image for an idea which is

common for all that makes it possible for «timeless topic», «timeless characters» etc. to exist in literary

art, so the summary is: there is a possibility of coexistence of different artists, each of which has his

own position in life views put into imagery» (Sakulin P.N., 1928)

The integrity of a theoretical analysis of the phenomenon of autobiographical prose is furthermore

actualised by seeing pathos (from Greek, pathos – a deep feeling of passion) as an important subjective

part of a prosaic text. The author’s passion for the core of the depicted object creates “the real face of

the work of fiction” (Losev A.F., 2010). The importance of pathos from the point of view of emotional

perception is described by G.N. Pospelov, P.V. Palievsky, B.V. Tomashevsky and others. Here’s what

Tomashevsky wrote about the role and function of pathos: “… it is not enough (author’s cursive) to

tune the reader’s mind into this or that tone. It is important to guide (author’s cursive) his feelings. This

is achieved by means of raising feelings of sympathy or, on the contrary, of hatred and contempt

towards the events taking place. The text’s power to convince does not lie in the field of logical proof,

but in raising sympathy towards the ideas presented” (Tomashevsky, B.V., 1996).

Literature phenomenon in well-known classics’ childhood cultivates hedonistic reading.

Autobiography based fiction reveals the phenomenon of transformation in the process of reading a

book from external experience into internal experience. The artistic level of the book is also critical for

the acquisition of gaining internal experience from reading the book. A significant event in the

autobiography based fiction is connected with the beginning of reading books and the first

acquaintance with the author which can be called the initial point of writer's creativity. Thus the

Russian autobiography based fiction is considered to be a source of methodical, philosophical,

psychological and pedagogical experience.

2.Research methods

The study is based on of a wide range of pieces of classical Russian literature

(XIX-XX centuries), from Maxim Gorky and Leo Tolstoy to Ivan Bunin and Samuil Marshak.

of the study is the autobiographical prose of S.T. Aksakov (“Family Chronicle”, 1856),

M. Gorky (“Childhood”, 1913; “My Apprenticeship”, 1915), A.N. Tolstoy (“Nikita’s Childhood”,

1920 – 1922; “Memoir”, 1943), I.A. Bunin (“The Life of Arseniev”, 1927 – 1939; “Memories”

(“Autobiographical Notes”, “Diaries”, 1950), B.K. Zaitsev (“Gleb’s Journey”, 1937 – 1953), I.S.

Shmelev (sketch-book “Autobiography”, 1913; “How I Became a Writer”, 1929 – 1930), S.Ya.

Marshak (“In the Prologue of Life. Pages of Memories”, 1960), K.I. Chukovsky (“Silver Coat of

Arms”, 1938; “How I Became a Writer”, 1978).

Personal experience of reading books of authors as a child gets a stable typological feature and is

characterized by elevated pathos of poets. Thus, a novelized autobiography vividly recreates the

moment of reading and experience. The eventfulness is considered by us in the context of

phenomenology and existential philosophy as the co-organization of valuable human relations, in

which, according to M. Heidegger the human being is not only the “being-in-the-world”, but also

“being-with-others”. Interpretation of eventfulness by modern researcher I.G. Mineralova (2012) also

became important for our work.

Let us consider the intensity of children’s experiences in the prose of S.T. Aksakov. Brightness of

the image memory with a detailed description of the stories “Grateful Lion” and “The Boy Dressing by

Himself” from the first read book “Mirror of Virtue”. He wrote in the author’s comments: “I remember

even the face of a lion and a boy!” (Aksakov S.T., 1955). The scale of children’s impressions from the

book by N.I. Novikov “Children’s Reading for the Heart and Mind” exaggerates, driving mad: “I was

just mad: I did not say anything, did not understand what I was said, and did not want to go to dinner”

(Aksakov S.T., 1955). Communication with the book initiates in the heart of the future artist “a

complete turn, and ...” (Aksakov S.T., 1955). We read in the memoirs of

S.Ya. Marshak: “I still remember the smell of sweets and spices in the great bazaars of “The Thousand

and One Nights” (Marshak S.Ya., 1968-1972).

I.A. Bunin describes his experience outrageously and ironically. In some children’s book he

dropped on a picture with an inscription that “amazed” with its last word, then still fortunately

unknown to me: “Meeting a cretin in the mountains” (Bunin I.A., 1982). The dynamics of feelings is

described in Bunin’s expressive manner: the discovery of the word “Cretin” converts “just nasty into

fearful, mysterious and even magic!” His statement sounds confessional: “And suddenly I was flushed

with poetic excitement, probably that day was some kind of?” (Bunin I.A.,

1982). In the novel “The Life of Arseniev”, Bunin wrote: mostly took after Lermontov, and to a certain

degree – after Pushkin”. It was Lermontov’s poetry that “awakened”, “formed the soul”, responded to

“a passionate dream of distant and beautiful”, “a cherished spiritual sound”.

A special influence of children’s books on young readers is also connected with the tradition of

family reading. Thus A.N. Tolstoy wrote in his “Memoir”: “When winter came and the garden and the

house were covered with snow, a hanging lamp over a round table was switched on in the dining room,

a poorly furnished plastered room, and the stepfather read aloud Nekrasov, Tolstoy, Turgenev or

something from a fresh book of the “Europe Reporter” (Tolstoy A.N., 1958). In “Gleb’s Journey” by

B.K. Zaitsev, lost nostalgic things are glorified as the idyllic picture of family happiness: “A lamp over

the table, Gogol, close people around, a large comfortable house, fields, forests of Russia – he could

not understand that happiness yet, but he also could not forget this evening” (Zaitsev B.K., 1999).

Reading emphasizes the special closeness of father and son, the unity of their for the

heroes of Gogol’s “Taras Bulba”. The father reads an episode of Ostap’s execution ... “When he

reached the words “Father! Where are you? Can you hear all of this?” – and Taras answered: I hear” –

the father paused, took out a handkerchief, put it to the right and then to the left eye. Gleb stood up,

walked from the back and hugged and kissed him: he wanted to express all the fascination with both

Gogol and his father”. The depth of apposition of psychological and aesthetic reactions is embodied in

the author’s comment: “At that moment, it seemed to him that he might as well endure all the torment,

and his father would be Taras” (Zaitsev B.K., 1999).

The process of identification is most vividly described by A.N. Tolstoy in “Nikita’s Childhood”, all

the most emotionally intense experiences of an autobiographical hero (the first horse riding, the first

love) with a wonderful transformation of reality are projected on favorite literary heroes of Fenimore

Cooper and Mayne Reid.

And this is how S.Ya. Marshak describes his experience, in which the poetization of reading

process receives a social connotation of antidote, or active force of confrontation with everyday reality:

“Without “The Thousand and One Nights”, it would be very boring to live at our place on the Square,

where one day was like another, where familiar raucous quarrels or a drunken song of an errant tailor

or intestine was heard from all the houses ...” (Marshak S.Ya., 1968-1972). Reading of domestic

classics creates the experience of overcoming loneliness in M. Gorky: “these books washed my soul, I

felt what a good book it was, and understood its necessity for me : I’m not alone on earth and I will be

alright” (Gorky M., 1951).

Gorky got a nickname of “bookworm” in the “Childhood’ for his “passion for reading!”. A “good

and right” book is a party for him. Empathy for heroes of Goncourt, Greenwood and Balzac awakens a

feeling of authenticity of artistic truth: “there was no villains, no good souls, there were just people,

” (Gorky M., 1951).

A particular relevance of the study of the phenomenon of children’s book is in the description of the

first experience. Oral storytelling of tales of Scheherazade or housekeeper Pelageya by Serezha

Bagrov received a creative adaptation in the author’s retelling to his sister and aunt. However, all the

new stories and details bring accusations of lying to a young talent instead of the expected success. No

less important is the metamorphosis of the narrator, Serezha plays a fairy tale “with all the nursery

rhymes, antics, groaning and sighing of Pelageya”.

Creative improvisations of S. Ya. Marshak on the novel “Anna Karenina” by L.N. Tolstoy are

called “Bustles”. A boring way from the gymnasium is decorated with a fascinating story, “Come on,

Marshak, go on with your bustle”. No less creative becomes the boring final of the story, “an explosion

of a barrel of gunpowder, which killed all the characters”.

In conclusion we would like to quote K.I. Chukovsky. He starts his personal experience of

becoming a writer with a chronotope of his birth, in which he includes the names of literary heroes:

“When I was born ... in Petersburg at Five Corners, near the Vladimir Church, all of them were still

alive...” Who did the author mean by all? “Grigorovich, Goncharov, Turgenev, Walt Whitman”. He

calls lucky men those people who “saw Gogol and Adam Mickiewicz with their own eyes”

(Chukovsky K.I., 1965).


Typological classification of literature phenomenon in well-known classics’ childhood. The

most significant are the writers’ bathetic description of the reading process, a flashback of work of art

perception, pattern of artistic imitation and tradition of family reading.


The Russian autobiography based fiction research reveals methodical,

philosophical, psychological and pedagogical value. Multicultural communication emphasizes

particular value of researching Russian reading tradition and development of creative abilities.


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  • Chukovsky, K.I. (1965). Collected works in 6 vols. Vol. I. Moscow (in Russian), 139.

  • Gorky, M. (1959). Collected works in 30 vols. Vol. XI. Moscow (in Russian), 358, 351, 350.

  • Gusev, V.I. (1999). The art of prose. Articles about the main things. Moscow (in Russian), 37. Losev, A.F. (2010). The dialectics of an artistic form. Moscow (in Russian), 207.

  • Marshak, S.Ya. (1968-1972). From childhood to children. Chapters from the biographical book. Early

  • childhood.Collected works in 8 vols. Vol. V. Moscow (in Russian), 101.

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  • for children and about children. Vol. 16. Moscow (in Russian), 91-99.

  • Sakulin, P.N. (1928). The theory of literary styles. Moscow (in Russian), 17.

  • Tolstoy, A.N. (1958). Collected works in 10 vols. Vol. I. Moscow (in Russian), 52.

  • Tomashevsky, B.V. (1996). Poetics (Short curriculum). Moscow (in Russian), 73. Zaitsev, B.K. (1999). Collected works in 5 vols. Vol. IV. Moscow (in Russian), 54, 53.

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Cite this article as:

Kudryashova, A. A., & Salenko, O. Y. (2016). Books for Children in the Russian Classics` Range of Reading: Methodological, Psycho-Pedagogical and Philosophical Potential of Russian Autobiographical Prose. In & R. Valeeva (Ed.), Teacher Education - IFTE 2016, vol 12. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 330-334). Future Academy.