Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

I am grateful to the many colleagues, too numerous to name, who have given me much-appreciated feedback at all stages of this book. My special thanks go to Deborah Martinsen for her unwavering willingness to offer moral, conceptual, and editorial support. Andrew Kahn’s sense of humor and readiness to help with matters large and small sustained me throughout my writing. William Mills Todd III, Richard Wortman, and David Bethea read the introduction...

Note on Transliteration and Translation

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pp. ix-x, 1-2

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Introduction: Russian Writers and State Service, 1750s–1850s

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pp. 3-19

For every lover of Russian literature, Alexander Pushkin is first of all a great writer, the author of Eugene Onegin, Boris Godunov, The Bronze Horseman, and some of the most celebrated lyric poetry in the language. For many, he is the creator of modern Russian literature, a culture hero who continues to speak to readers of different historical epochs. Accordingly, much scholarship has focused on his work, life, and cultural significance. This study, however, will place...

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1. To Serve or to Write? Noble Writers in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries

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pp. 20-43

In the eighteenth century, Russian literature was in the final stages of a transition from medieval forms of writing to modern ones, based on European models. Both institutions of literary life (such as the Russian Academy, established in 1783 on Ekaterina Dashkova’s initiative to emulate the Académie Française; according to its bylaws, its main purpose was to standardize the Russian language and compile a dictionary) and literary...

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2. Pushkin as Bureaucrat, Courtier, and Writer

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pp. 44-85

Alexander Pushkin is undoubtedly the most important poet of the Golden Age and, while his fame waned somewhat in the mid-nineteenth century, after the Pushkin celebration of 1880 it flourished again, and he continues to dominate the Russian Parnassus to the present day, speaking in a different voice to each new generation and always saying what that generation wants to hear.1 For Russians, his significance as a writer has never been eclipsed by anyone...

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3. The Hierarchy of Ranks according to Gogol

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pp. 86-116

When readers of Russian literature want to learn about state service and the value of particular ranks in Imperial Russia, especially civil ones, they often see the works of Nikolai Gogol as their best source of information. Indeed, who else among Russian writers paid so much attention to state servitors? Beginning with “Notes of a Madman” and ending with Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends (Vybrannye mesta iz perepiski s druz’iami, 1847), Gogol’s works...

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4. Poets in the Military: Denis Davydov, Aleksandr Polezhaev, and Mikhail Lermontov

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pp. 117-145

Many Russian writers of noble status began their service in the military (Sumarokov, Derzhavin, Murav’ev, Karamzin, Dmitriev, to name just a few), but a relatively small number of them stayed in the military for the duration of their time in service. They left for various reasons, but one of the most powerful incentives was the desire to rise in rank: transferring to the civil service allowed one to gain at least one class in the Table of Ranks (two if...

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5. Service Ranks in Dostoevsky’s Life and Fiction

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pp. 146-172

Dostoevsky had very little personal experience with the hierarchy of ranks and no investment in it; therefore, the worlds of both military and, especially, civil service were alien to him and interested him mostly as material for his writing. In particular, Dostoevsky developed as a writer by responding to Gogol’s representation of civil servitors—either continuing, playing with, or, more often, disagreeing with it. Gogolian low-ranking clerks and their...

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Conclusion: Beyond Rank

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pp. 173-188

The tradition at the center of inquiry in this book essentially ends with Dostoevsky: in many ways, he was the last writer for whom the system of rank mattered. Although it had little appeal to him as a means of career-building, it was a frequent theme in his works; it was a device he used to voice his opinion about Russian literary tradition and to define his own place in it; it was also a cultural phenomenon that factored into his assessment of the Russian...

Appendix: The Table of Ranks

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pp. 189-192

Notes

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pp. 193-226

Index

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pp. 227-240