Nigel H. Foxcroft has a major research interest in the field of Russian and Slavonic Studies, particularly in pre-revolutionary, nineteenth-century literature – i.e. of the Golden Age.
2015 ‘Visions of History: Chance and Certainty in A. S. Pushkin’s The Bronze Horseman and Boris Godunov’, ICCEES IX World Congress 2015 Proceedings: I.I.9 Pushkin Panel (Aug 2015).
2014 ‘Malcolm Lowry: The Russian Connection’, IAFOR NACAH2014: Official Conference Proceedings (November 2014), 29-42 (ISSN 2189-1052).
2011 ‘Panchronic Comedy: Past to Future Trajectory of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard’, Foxcroft, Nigel H., Sun Yat-sen Journal of Humanities, no. 30 (January 2011), 139-53 (ISSN 1024-3631).
2009 ‘A. S. Pushkin: K voprosu istoricheskogo konflikta’, Foxcroft, N. H., Rusistika, no. 34 (Autumn 2009), 3-7 (ISSN 0308-4957)
2007 ‘Psikhologicheskaya interpretatsiya romana M. Yu. Lermontova Geroi nashego vremeni 1841g.: Analiz samoobmana', Foxcroft, N. H., Rusistika, no 32, 3-8. ISSN 0308-4957.
1996 'Review of J. Thomas Shaw's Pushkin's Poetics of the Unexpected: The Nonrhymed Lines in the Rhymed Poetry and the Rhymed Lines in the Nonrhymed Poetry', Columbus, OH: Slavica, 1994, Foxcroft, N. H., Modern Language Review, 91, no. 3, 812-13 (ISSN 0026-7937).
1989 'An Experiment in Interpretation and Russification: The Influence of Shakespeare on Puskinian Drama', Foxcroft, N. H., Acta Academiae Paedogogicae Szegediensis: Series Linguistica, Litteraria et Aestetica, Szeged, Hungary, 129-34 (ISSN 1215-9387).
1985 'A JATE Orosz Nyelvi és Irodalmi Tanszékének könyvtára', Foxcroft, Nigel H., Csongrád Megyei Könyvtáros, Szeged, Hungary, 17, no. 1-2, 41-42 (ISSN 0133-705X).
1985 'Ocherk proniknoveniya i posleduyushchego sinteza inostrannykh slov v russkom yazyke v XVII-XVIII vekakh’, Foxcroft, N. H., Acta Universitatis Szegediensis de Attila József Nominatæ: Dissertationes Slavicæ, Sectio Linguistica, Szeged, Hungary, XVII, 81-100 (ISSN 0237-9554).
2015 ‘Visions of History: Chance and Certainty in A. S. Pushkin’s The Bronze Horseman and Boris Godunov’, ICCEES IX World Congress 2015, Kanda University of International Studies, Makuhari, Japan, 3rd-8th Aug.
2014 ‘Malcolm Lowry: The Russian Connection’, NACAH2014 (The IAFOR North American Conference on the Arts and Humanities), Marriott – Downtown, Providence, Rhode Island, USA, 18th-21st Sept & chair of lit session.
2014 ‘Dynamic Conflict in Alexander Pushkin’s Boris Godunov and The Bronze Horseman’, New UK Research in C19 Russian Literature Symposium, Darwin College, Cambridge, 1st Feb.
1990 ‘The Influence of N. M. Karamzin upon A. S. Pushkin’s Conception of History’, IV World Congress for Soviet and East European Studies, 21-26 July 1990, Harrogate, England.
1989 ‘Rational and Irrational Elements in A. S. Puskin's View of Historical Conflict in Boris Godunov and Mednyj Vsadnik’, Humanities Research Conference, 20 April 1989, Faculty of Education, University of Szeged, Hungary.
Nigel Foxcroft’s research into Russian literature makes use of literary interests in psychoanalysis and innovative close-reading methods, drawing on his fluency in the language and knowledge of the cultural context in which the works were produced.
In his research into nineteenth-century Russian authors, Foxcroft examines conceptions of nation and the individual in relation to historical shifts in time and space, focusing on the literary works of authors including A.S. Pushkin (1799-1837), Mikhail Lermontov (1814-41), and Anton Chekhov (1860-1904).
With regard to Pushkin, Foxcroft observes that this forefather of Russian literature pinpoints crucial turning-points in the rise of the Russian state in his two historical masterpieces, Boris Godunov (1825) and Mednyi vsadnik/ The Bronze Horseman (1833). Drawing on the influence of historical sources, such as monolithic Istoriya gosudarstva Rossiiskogo/ History of the Russian State (1816-26) by N. M. Karamzin (1766-1826), Shakespearian tragedy, and the Lomonosovian ode, he investigates - in his analysis of the tragedy, Boris Godunov, the narrative poem, The Bronze Horseman, and the Oleg lyrics - Pushkin’s adaptation and synthesis of the eighteenth-century Russian linguistic and literary tradition which informed his conception of history and historical conflict.
Foxcroft demonstrates that, in his analysis of historico-philosophical and moral conflict, Pushkin does not simply recreate the bygone days of his predecessors, but, conscious of links between past and the present, uses historicisms to achieve unity. Odic and Church Slavonic elements, historically stylized terminology, as well as colloquialisms, act as a means of synthesizing differing linguistic elements in accord with thematic and semantic dictates. Paradoxically, this precipitates the major structural adaptation and synthesis of inherently dissimilar linguistic strands.
Themes of the contradictory forces of the rational, European Enlightenment embodied in Tsar Peter the Great (1672-1725) are contrasted with the irrational, spiritual and psychological forces of Russian tradition. Flawing the ideas of the Enlightenment and the Romantic Movement, Pushkin adds a new dimension to historical conflict by revealing a clash between rational ideas and principles in history, on the one hand, and the forces of the irrational (i.e. historical chance and coincidence), on the other. Polarizing the historico-literary argument, he permits neither the rational, nor the irrational to dominate the world to the exclusion of the other. Yet, through his eyes, Russian tsars - such as the guilt-ridden Boris Godunov and the visionary Peter the Great, a man of Napoleonic volition - are unable to impose order and reason on a world of disorder without unleashing those unpredictable, irrational elemental forces which they are attempting to quell.
As well as in Boris Godunov, a dual approach towards conflict is also found in The Bronze Horseman which reflects the two separate, contradictory traditions of interpretation of the founding of St Petersburg in 1703 and unites three different eras. Foxcroft deduces that, with its parallel linguistic and stylistic conflict, this narrative poem acts both as a dialogue with the eighteenth-century Russian odic tradition (from which Pushkin desired to liberate modern Russian literature) and as a synthesis of the past and present through causal analysis. As in Boris Godunov, a measured blend both of church slavonicisms and of colloquial terminology provides a parallel linguistic contrast, mirroring the thematic socio-political and moral one. A state of conflict is produced between the unnaturally rational frame of mind of Peter the Great and Evgeny’s irrationally natural rebellion, hallucinations, and consequent madness.
Foxcroft argues that Pushkin exposes the contradictory, insoluble nature of dynamic power conflict in its ideological, historical, linguistic, and literary dimensions. Perceived in both secular and spiritual planes, it marks a polarization between the forces of order and disorder, the rational and the irrational. These dynamic clashes are seen as a feature of historical events and the forces of nature. In The Bronze Horseman this discord is symbolized by the clash between the “hard” and “soft” elements of St Petersburg and the River Neva, respectively. In the ensuing struggle for survival either one loses one’s way and goes mad, like Evgeny in The Bronze Horseman, or one conquers, like the rather paranoid Boris Godunov, the imaginative Peter the Great, and, indeed, the resourceful Pushkin himself.
Depiction of historical conflict is not confined to Boris Godunov and The Bronze Horseman but also plays a significant role in Pushkin’s pre-1820 lyrical works where this Russian poet assumes a critical approach towards autocracy.
In ‘Derevnya’ (1819) he refers to the immorality of serfdom, calling for its replacement by enlightened government. In ‘K Litsiniyu (s latinskogo)’ (1815) he cherishes liberty - for which the Romans had once stood – but views the growth of power as the prime cause of slavery. He notes that, like Karamzin, the Decembrists idealized ancient Russia, ignoring its contradictions. In ‘Zametki po russkoi istorii XVIII veka’ (1822) he envisages Peter the Great as a despot, akin to Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821).
Pushkin’s attitude to the notion of freedom is complex, for he idealizes neither anarchism, nor violent political revolt as providing a justifiable solution to the dilemma of power. In ‘Vol’nost’’ (1817) he recognizes a ruler’s authority, but emphasizes the moral code of the Law. In ‘André Chénier’ (1825) he laments the death of this French poet (1762-94) who, cherishing the ideal of freedom, had welcomed the French Revolution of 1789 - only to fall victim of Maximilien de Robespierre (1758-94) and his Reign of Terror (1793-94).
Pushkin’s conception of Peter the Great (whom he also likens to Robespierre) is not dissimilar to his treatment of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). In his lyrical poem, ‘Napoleon’ (1821) he depicts Bonaparte as not only a great leader, but also as a tyrant and the murderer of freedom, contending that dictatorship drew its strength from a usurpation of power. Indeed, he is described as the false symbol of freedom in ‘K Moryu’ (1824). For Pushkin, should natural or moral laws be transgressed, only calamity can result.
Turning to Mikhail Lermontov, Foxcroft provides a close, innovatory reading of his Modernistic novel, A Hero of our Time (1841). His in-depth investigation provides a detailed case-study of its (anti-)hero, Pechorin. In psychoanalyzing his complex character, established doctrine is challenged by shedding new light on his kaleidoscopic view of the world. By re-examining his interface with the illusory, marine environment of ‘Taman’, his ideas are revealed as being inadequate to explain both himself and the misleading surroundings of the seaside smugglers.
Foxcroft penetrates the enigmatic, introspective, chameleonic nature of Pechorin which camouflages his multiple, internal contradictions, deceptions, self-delusions, and outright lies. An ironic ‘hero of our time’, the latter is exposed as a paradoxical, self-analytical cynic, torn between passion and reason, and a sceptic, pessimistic idealist who attempts to conquer every living being within his grasp and then rationalizes his egotistical emotions. Foxcroft ascertains that Pechorin, a composite figure, visualizes in others reflections of the very same Byronic weaknesses, vices, and myopic faults, which he is striving to eradicate in himself. Yet, blinded by his gross misunderstanding of the world around him, he - like Tatyana in Pushkin’s prequel, Eugene Onegin (1825-32) - falls victim to his own deceptive, Romantic imagination.
In this reassessment of Pechorin’s innate dilemma, Foxcroft deduces that the former, a self-confessed fatalist, stands on the Caucasian threshold of Russian Orthodox free-will and Islamic predestination. Possessing an unquenchable thirst for power and influence over others, he is, incongruously, wholly dependent upon Vera’s faithful, true love – that Tolstoyan, life-endowing force of selflessness. Predisposed to seeking logical, rational explanations for his uncontrollable, child-like passions, the real opportunist in him resorts - in his journal of bygone events - to fate as an excuse for justifying his interference in the lives of others. Yet, he ultimately refuses responsibility for his pernicious deeds, doubting the sovereignty of predestination - as he does in ‘The Fatalist’ - whenever consequences are unseeable.
The theme of time is explored by Foxcroft in his evaluation of Chekhov’s Modernistic play, The Cherry Orchard (1904). Comparisons are made to The Diary of a Superflous Man (1850) by Ivan Turgenev (1818-83). Consideration is given to the dramatis personae’s ability to influence and change the future and to the inescapability of socio-economic transformation - in relation to status and wealth - in the context of old and new worlds.
Foxcroft revisits Chekhov’s original intention regarding the atmosphere of The Cherry Orchard which has been much misunderstood by directors – such as Konstantin Stanislavsky (1863-1938) - and critics alike: Chekhov’s play was conceived as not as a tragedy but a comedy. This necessitates a full consideration of the nature of Chekhovian humour and its links to ‘laughter through tears’ in the spiritual odyssey, Dead Souls (1842) by Nikolai Gogol (1809-52).
Nearly every character in The Cherry Orchard is observed in relationship to status and wealth. As the epitome of change, the self-made, pragmatic merchant, Lopakhin acts as a bridge between the past and the present, between the old world and the new, though, like Chekhov himself, he is receptive to literature, theatre, and beauty.
Foxcroft maintains that, in its combination of naturalism and symbolism, The Cherry Orchard emphasizes psychology of character rather than plot. Influenced by the plight of the ‘superfluous man’, Chekhov presents us with the transformation of the Russian intellectual into Trofimov, the idealist thinker. Seen by different characters in different ways, the crucial image of the Cherry Orchard spans personal memories and historical events. In Chekhov’s own blend of panchronic comedy, its axe connects the past to the future destiny of Mother Russia on the threshold of a new revolutionary era.