Gogol's most famous short story, first published in 1842, has attracted unrivalled attention, both from other writers and from critics of every hue. It has been reworked by Russian writers from Dostoevsky to the present day, and filmed both in Russia and abroad. It has provoked competing analyses from nineteenth-century social critics such as Belinsky and Chernystevsky, from Eirhenbaum and the Russian formalists, from Soviets and emigres. In recent years it has evoked invative readings by leading Western scholars. It has been found to be both a social document and a psychoanalytical study, both a religious primer and a literary game. This study combines a detailed survey of the critical reception and reworkings in a range of media with a synthetic analysis, drawing together the insight of a century and a half of attention to Gogol's masterpiece.