I am nominating Anton Chekhov as I believe the article now meets all the criteria and because, in my opinion, this great writer deserves a higher profile. I didn't interpret the title "Anton Chekhov" to stand only for "biography of Anton Chekhov" but also for "the work of Anton Chekhov". In the opening and closing sections in particular, with their accompanying notes, I have tried to provide the readers of this article—and I believe many of them will be writers, writing students, and literature readers and students—with an entry into critical opinion on Chekhov's work.
Chekhov's life has been exhaustively documented in biographies, and I could probably reach out to one now and tell you what he had for breakfast any time between 1880 and 1904, but I have restricted this article to that biographical information which I feel is relevant to an understanding of his work: so there is no attempt here, for example, to describe his love life. As he said himself in his notebook: "When I see books, I am not concerned with how the authors loved or played cards; I see only their marvellous works". This article therefore refers to Chekhov's writing as often as possible, particularly his letters and short stories. I at first intended to mention all his most famous stories, intertwining references to them with the biographical narrative, but when I realised this would produce an article length of over 80kb, I decided instead to honour Chekhov's faith in brevity and attempt a relatively crisp article that shouldn't test the patience of the readers and may tempt them to investigate further for themselves. I plan to make some articles about his short and longer stories in the future. qp10qp 20:16, 17 February 2007 (UTC)
Comment. Just flicking through, a couple of minor things. Wikilink dates with months and days to allow date preferences to work, but generally not single years, per WP:DATE. Work a little on the formatting of the online references. The external link should only be applied to the title, not the retrieval date. As much info should be given about the source as possible; for instance, The Guardian one should include the publisher and date of the story. Will give it a more detailed look later. Trebor 21:25, 17 February 2007 (UTC)
Sorted that stuff, I think. Helpful suggestions, cheers. qp10qp 00:26, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
Support with caveats. You say in your description that you made no attempt to describe his love life. What exactly do you mean by that? Sometimes love lives are essential to a person's biography. If you mean that you didn't detail every tryst, I am in agreement, but if you mean that you eliminated torrid love affairs that had a significant influence on Chekhov, I would have to disagree with your decision. Also, I wished that there had been more Chekhov criticism; you have writers' responses to him which is excellent, but what about scholars? They generally have a more dispassionate take; perhaps a "Themes" section could integrate this sometime in the future? (On that note, I would remove the beautiful quotation from Ian MacCllellan in the lead - it is too poetic for a lead, I think.) Finally, some tiny source things: in the notes, I think that the first time a source appears, it is supposed to be completely cited and in your bibliography, not all of the citations are formatted exactly the same way (some have publication locations, some do not, for example). Overall, though, I thought this was a good article. Awadewit 05:53, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
Many thanks for your comments.
On the question of scholarly opinion, I disagree that I have neglected it. There is considerable referencing of scholarly opinion throughout the article—starting with Styan in the lead. There is even a reference to Michael Finke, ("'Chekhov's 'Steppe': A Metapoetic Journey"), which I referenced through Janet Malcom's use of him (I have actually tried to read Finke myself, finding him almost incomprehensible). Malcom in my opinion does a good job of reporting some of the recent original work in Chekhov scholarship, and she is used as a main source for the article, as is James Wood (The Broken Estate: Essays in Literature and Belief), a critic but a scrupulously scholarly one. There are a good few scholarly works used and referenced, but some scholarly opinion may be disguised: for example, Nabokov is quoted as much as a scholar as a writer, and Rayfield's biography of Chekhov was used in particular because it contains much new scholarship on Chekhov based on his access to previously censored archives in Russia—his original scholarship on the evolution of Uncle Vanya from the Wood Demon is noted too; some of Bartlett's work is also original. Theatre scholarship is referenced in the article as well. The notes reveal more scholarly underpinning than is apparent from the article text.
Perhaps you could make this clearer in the body of the text by simply attaching epithets such as "a theater scholar" to various names?
I've kept scholars' names out of the main text and largely used their views for supplementary analysis in the notes. For example, I've quoted Martin Esslin in the notes because he defines "subtext" so well (I regard Esslin as one of the key analysts of modern theatre). That underpins a quotation from Stanislavski in the text, Stanislavski being a name that will mean something to the reader. I've used that layered principle throughout—quoting famous voices in the text and scholars in the notes. qp10qp 21:20, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
I would argue that you need to identify people such as Stanislavski. When I write an article, I try to imagine an undergraduate reader - a freshman, for example - and given the state of education today (at least in the United States) the freshmen that I teach are sorely lacking in non-popular culture references. Awadewit 21:52, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
Well, Stanislavski was introduced earlier in the article. I don't really like seeing scholars' or historians' names intruding into this sort of article. Readers who want to know the background to assertions or quotes can click the tags—the minority, I should think. qp10qp 22:47, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
I was just trying to follow WP:CITE#HOW. I agree that it can interrupt the flow of one's prose, but somtimes readers have to be reminded about the reliability of a source. Sadly, it doesn't always occur to them to check. (A blatantly political example: the Iraq war) Awadewit 22:58, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
I do stick to correct Wikipedia citing principles. It's a stylistic decision whether to name scholars, etc. in the text; and whereas you obviously have to do so in controversial articles like those about the Iraq war, it's not often required in articles like this one, in my opinion. As soon as a controversial assertion is necessary, however, yes, one should mention the source in the text: I did that with Donald Rayfield's suggestion that Olga may have become pregnant when she was apart from Chekhov: that is a famous thesis of his and so worth mentioning, but I balanced it with contrary views in the notes.
When I put quotes in the notes, they are often supplementary to a citation to an assertion in the text; I combine references to achieve a juxtaposed effect, counterweighting possible unreliability. But since these supplementary notes are incidental to the text, all the less reason for the noted scholars or historians to be mentioned upfront. To me, a historian or scholar who appears in the text is like a waiter who sits down at your table and helps himself to a piece of melon. I know my method here is unusual: it's the result of trying to think through what notes and references on Wikipedia are really for: I've decided they are primarily for transparency, which is why I often put quotes in the notes: that way the readers have a clearer idea what the various sources said. I think the Chekhov article will be of more use to students, for example, by giving them a bunch of incidental quotes to consider, than if I restricted them to "Smith, 167" on a key point. And I believe that one day notes will be hideable, meaning length issues will become irrelevant for notes on Wikipedia, making possible vast subterranean stores of supplementary information for those who are interested. qp10qp 23:47, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
My example of the Iraq War was not meant as a reference to the page but was meant as a real-life example. It illustrates that, in general, people often do not consider the reliability of sources which is why it is important to remind people of what sources you are using and why. I agree that the notes are for transparency, but readers rarely read them - it is our job as writers to remind readers that sources are important and that who is saying something matters. Awadewit 00:25, 19 February 2007 (UTC)
Put like that, I agree with you. qp10qp 01:20, 19 February 2007 (UTC)
On the other points, I have reasons for the methods used:
Chekhov appears to have had many passing mistresses, but as far as I can see he never reveals himself very deeply to or about them in his letters. He used prostitutes and appears not to have fallen for anyone until Olga, who is given her proper place in the article. Quite honestly, I've never come across a writer with such a tedious love life. Simmons has quite a lot about a woman called Lidiya Avilova who posthumously claimed to have been Chekhov's great love, but the conclusion of Simmons's long study of her case is that she never had even so much as an affair with Chekhov. Rayfield calls her Chekhov's "most deluded admirer". Chekhov had relatively little to do with her, and I don't see why the article should give her the time of day. In my opinion, letters to Olga apart, the most beautiful thing Chekhov ever wrote about a woman in his letters was this:
The Japanese girl has her own concept of modesty. She doesn't put out the light and when you ask what the Japanese is for one thing or another, she gives a straight answer and as she does so, because she doesn't understand much Russian, points her fingers and even puts her hand on it. What's more, she doesn't put on airs or go coy, like Russian women. And all the time she is laughing and making lots of tsu noises. She is amazingly skilled at her job, so that you feel you are not having intercourse but taking part in a top level equestrian course. When you come, the Japanese girl pulls with her teeth a sheet of cotton wool from her sleeve, catches you by the 'boy'...gives you a massage, and the cotton wool tickles your belly. And all this is done with coquetry, laughing, singing, saying tsu.
Wish I could have found a place for that. Apart from Olga, I believe the two women of Chekhov's life were his mother and his sister, both of whom he lived with till his death, who are often mentioned in the article. There are other things I haven't bothered with much, like his friendships and his philanthropy.
I'm beginning to worry that too much might be missing from this biography. I have debated in my own writing of biographies of authors what is relevant and what is not. I finally came to the conclusion that since it is a biography page, more information about their life was necessary than one might use when writing about their works. To me, it sounds like you might be eliminating huge swaths of his life in order to focus on his writing. While I accept your premise that those interested in his writing will be the most likely readers of this page, that does not mean that they are uninterested in the rest of his life. Perhaps a few lines about these other issues for balance?
I've not omitted anything linear. All the important events of Chekhov's life are included one after another, and the scheme of the article is very like that in his biographies. I should make clear that this was a man who lived a particularly quiet life, spending most of his time writing. The only two accessible dramas in his life (he was markedly unrevealing in his letters about Olga's miscarriage and her possible infidelity) were his journey to Sakhalin and his tuberculosis, both of which I feel are given appropriate space.
It's so much harder to write a relatively short article about someone like Chekhov than a longer one; and it is my ambition to write concise articles for Wikipedia because I don't believe the casual reader wants to read more than 40kb (this one is 45kb already). Still, I've always had a plan B for this article: if people insist on expansion, I can add loads of stuff very quickly because I have heaps of extra material written and referenced already, just in case. But I feel we're getting too many bloated articles at FAC already, so I will be disappointed if it comes to that. qp10qp 21:41, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
Fair enough. I don't mean to be difficult - I just wanted to understand your methodology. It's good to have a discussion about this with someone who has thought about this as well! Awadewit 21:52, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
You're not being difficult, just starting to remind me of Porfiry in Crime and Punishment, that's all. (Only joking.) Actually, it's a relief to find someone's bothered. As a Chekhov nut, I'm bewildered no-one edits the Chekhov article much or shows any interest in it; I doubt many people will turn out to be interested in this FAC, either. Never mind. qp10qp
On the Ian Mckellen quote, this comes from possibly the greatest English-language actor of Chekhov. The lead should establish significance, and Chekhov's position as one of the summits of the actors' profession needs to be made clear: of course, quoting actors never sounds very scholarly (though the quote comes through a secondary source), but McKellen's words attest to the plays' living presence in the theatre and to their unique demands on the acting ensemble.
It is the placement I have a problem with - the lead seems the wrong place for it. The lead is supposed to be a summary.
Well, it's gone now. The lead does provide a summary, but a lead should also indicate the subject's significance, so I felt that some reference to Chekhov's significance to actors was called for. (I should confess here that I have acted in Chekhov, and so might be biased.)
With it missing, I felt the assertion about the challenge to the ensemble (though common knowledge in the theatre) lacked support, and so I have re-added the quote, but only to the notes, where it isn't obtrusive.qp10qp 18:57, 21 February 2007 (UTC)
As far as the formatting is concerned: it's true that scholarly footnoting requires the first mention of a source to be complete, and I used to do that. But Wikipedia articles are different animals from scholarly ones, I think, and to load up the notes with long book references which already appear in full a few inches down the page seems to me unnecessary (but I have fully referenced in the notes books which aren't largely about Chekhov and which do not appear therefore in the "references" section).
In the references section proper, I don't as a rule include publication locations, which are optional. My criterion is to give the reader information useful in finding the book, and so I added New York as a location for books by Leonard Woolf, Constance Garnett, Donald Rayfield, since one might associate them with London, and London as a location for Janet Malcom and James Wood because much of their work has been published in the States. However, I have removed those locations now to ensure consistency (I don't willingly include locations anyway, because I can't bring myself to write things like "Cambridge: Cambridge University Press", etc.)
I understand that publication location is optional, but it often helps in locating a book. When you request a book from a library, they often ask for the place of publication. My argument always is, give the reader as much information as possible to help them locate the book. But you are right that it is a personal preference. Awadewit 20:22, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
This is a good article; however, it probably needs to go through some kind of peer review. There are some caveats I have too. The article doesn't flow too well - though I'll see what I can do about it. The referencing could be improved. The first para doesn't follow usual Wikipedia practice, in DOB/DOD referencing, for instance. The style isn't dispassionate enough - I'm sure some will baulk at the sentence 'Chekhov calmly, and with a "strange, sourceless maturity", now assumed responsibility for the whole family', which is a biographer's style, not encyclopedist. I agree with the Ian McKellen thingie too. The assessment is a little inadequate. I don't think this is ready yet, in short.
With some hindsight, Qp10qp seems to have completely rewritten the article. I don't think that is entirely necessary though, given it already have some structure, and that User Ghirlandajo, a Russian, have done some good things which is now gone in the article proper. Maybe we should have a cooperation. Mandel 16:34, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
If I can respond to some of your points:
The style isn't dispassionate enough - I'm sure some will baulk at the sentence 'Chekhov calmly, and with a "strange, sourceless maturity", now assumed responsibility for the whole family', which is a biographer's style, not encyclopedist. I agree with the Ian McKellen thingie too.
Since you are the second person to object to the Ian Mckellen quote, I have removed it I have moved it to the notes. Perhaps I was trying to be too clever in using the words of the leading English-language Chekhov actor as evidence for Chekhov's significance to actors. Although I referenced the "calmly", "strange sourceless maturity" to a critic's own words (not a biographer's), I have withdrawn that as well, since you think it strikes too biographical a note. If you have other examples of the style not being dispassionate enough, could you note them here so that I can address them.
The referencing could be improved.
Could you explain what you mean there, and I will respond. I have a pile of the relevant books in front of me, and so I don't lack the resources to improve the references, but I need actionable objections to work on.
The article doesn't flow too well - though I'll see what I can do about it.
I've never been criticised on those grounds before, but obviously I'm blind to how the text reads to other people. I wonder if I became over-precise in the attempt to keep the length down.
The first para doesn't follow usual Wikipedia practice, in DOB/DOD referencing, for instance.
I thought I had stuck to the guidelines. Can you explain what you mean?
The assessment is a little inadequate.
Can you explain in what way? In quantity or quality? I honestly thought I'd piled the assessment on, when you take the stuff in the notes into account: I see few literary articles with this much referenced assessment. I referenced the weightiest critical sources that I could: Middleton Murry, Allen, Styan, Nabokov, Wood, Prose, Gerhardie, Esslin, Steiner are or were all commentators of good repute, I feel. I added to their comments the assessments from writers like Woolf, Joyce, Boyd, Carver, Hemingway, etc. and from the theatre workers Meyerhold, Stanislavski, and Ian McKellen.
With some hindsight, Qp10qp seems to have completely rewritten the article. I don't think that is entirely necessary though, given it already have some structure, and that User Ghirlandajo, a Russian, have done some good things which is now gone in the article proper. Maybe we should have a cooperation.
I prefer cooperation to working on my own, but no one was forthcoming, and the article was in a pitiful state, as people were noting on the talk page. It didn't have a single reference. Far from having any structure, the childhood and early period took up half the article: look at how the article stood before I started work on it: article condition on 29 October 2006. It's true that I've rewritten the article, but I did so gradually, one phrase at a time, working on what was there. Ghirlandajo has only ever done about eight small edits to the article (pictures/external links). One of my first edits was to rescue the picture of Chekhov and Tolstoy which he had uploaded, which had been spoiled by another editor: that picture is still here. Ghirlandajo was aware I was working on the article and didn't seem to mind: he actually helped me with a bit of research. If you are saying that it would be better if a Russian brought the article to FAC, then of course I agree. But I saw no sign of that happening—and as you've said yourself, "Chekhov matters". qp10qp 18:52, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
Support This seems like a very good article, definitely one of our best. But I'm wonering why you did not mention Chekhov's gun?--Konstable 23:13, 20 February 2007 (UTC)
Cheers. OK, I will add a mention of it. qp10qp 00:38, 21 February 2007 (UTC)
Support. Excellent article, well-written, referenced and illustrated. I will look through my books to see what can be added but the article is quite ready as it is. --Irpen 00:25, 21 February 2007 (UTC)
Support worthy article Alex Bakharev 00:53, 21 February 2007 (UTC)
Support very notable and the article looks great. Artaxiad 06:48, 21 February 2007 (UTC)
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