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Critical reflection on literature became a vital part of the public culture. This chapter addresses some of the ways in which literature became not only a vehicle for the expression and circulation of nationalist ideas but also a measure of the nation. It pursues three broad areas of inquiry: first, the continuities and distinctions between contemporary nationalism studies and articulations of nationality in the history of ideas in the West; second, the development of national literary history as a synecdoche for the nation's history; third, the ways in which the failure of national literature was tied to the incomplete development or decline of the nation. The study of nationalism has largely been shaped by political science, sociology and history, and has focused on the conditions under which nationalism emerges. National literature became not merely an expression of the nation's character but also evidence of the nation's merit and even legitimacy.
In his work as both philosopher and poet, Vladimir Solov'ev is motivated by seemingly contradictory desires: to apprehend in the world a higher, mystical "total–unity" that lends coherence and meaning to our lives, and to assert the validity of otherness, of the varieties of individual experience in this world. Throughout Solov'ev struggles with the possibilities inherent in available intellectual discourses–scientific, poetic, philosophical, and religious–to arrive at that combination of conceptualization and sensory experience that he called "thinking" total-unity. His historical revaluation of erotic love, The Meaning of Love (Smysl liubvi, 1892-1894), is a pivotal work in this quest. In addition to its well–known arguments in defense of erotic love, this essay focuses on the problem of discourse and its role in articulating and conceptualizing the mystical or revealed knowledge that eludes sense and reason.