The First Epoch
The Eighteenth Century and Russian Cultural Imagination
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
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This is a book about diverse interpretations of the recent past. These interpretations emerged during an epoch when the pursuit of historicity first came to be seen as the most pressing of intellectual concerns. Even as the nineteenth century distanced itself from the age of empresses and the Enlightenment, the eighteenth century’s legacies remained everywhere present: recognized...
Introduction: The Eighteenth Century as a Vanishing Point
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Standard literary histories date the energetic launch of Russian secular literature to the eighteenth century. In this period of rapid westernization, the modernizing state required a modernized vernacular culture, including new discourse-transmitting institutions (universities, social assemblies, the periodical press, various bodies of cultural administration, etc.) and enabling, both...
Part I: Derzhavin's Moment
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In a pair of articles published in 1843 in Notes of the Fatherland (Otechestvennye zapiski), Vissarion Belinskii offers a reappraisal of Gavrila Derzhavin’s poetry, remembered, according to the critic, more through saccharine textbook clichés than through any real attempts at an analytical reading. Supplementing his textual analyses with copious stanzas-long excerpts from the...
1. The Empresses' Histories: Lomonosov and Derzhavin
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With the passing of the eighteenth century, there died away a certain mode of governance and a particular cast of relationships between the poet and his ruler. The epoch had given the Russian Empire a unique place in modern European history (including, as we shall see, literary history) because women had ruled there for a full two-thirds of the century. Female rulers both embodied...
2. Catherine's Passing: Hybrid Genres of Commemoration
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Catherine II’s death on November 6, 1796, and her heir Paul I’s subsequent symbolic repudiation of her legacy created a peculiar crisis for panegyric discourse.1 On the one hand, it was difficult to represent Catherine’s much-celebrated thirty-four-year reign as darkness or winter, redeemed only through the light and spring of Paul’s succession, a contrastive topos we have seen...
3. Poetry Reads Power: Overcoming Patronage
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Derzhavin’s oeuvre attests both to the odic vision’s continued sway in the early nineteenth century and to the loosening of odic strictures in the period encompassed by the poet’s career.1 If the ode constructed history as essentially a solar system where everything revolved, depending on the particular subgenre, around God, the monarch, or some lesser patron, the blurring...
Part II: The Fictions of the Eighteenth Century
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As a point of entry into the second half of this book and a counterpoint to some of the more ambivalent assessments of the eighteenth century it contains, let us consider a long passage from Prince Petr Andreevich Viazemskii’s Notebooks (Zapisnye knizhki, 1813–48), one of the most perceptive, idiosyncratic, and extensive documents of the nineteenth century.4 None of the prince’s contemporaries...
4. The Verisimilar Eighteenth Century: Historical Fiction in the 1830s
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This account by Alexander Bestuzhev-Marlinskii (1797–1837), glib and sensationalist though it might sound, identifies a cluster of epochal attributes that can productively frame this chapter’s examination of the most spectacularly successful genre of the early nineteenth century: the historical novel.1 As if heeding Ivan Kireevskii’s appraisal of the 1820s–’30s as the decades when...
5. Mimetic Temporalities: Fashion from the Eighteenth Century to Pushkin's "The Queen of Spades"
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In Russia, fashion was coerced into becoming a visible mechanism of social regulation in the eighteenth century.1 Vestimentary decrees were among the earliest and arguably most peremptory acts of Petrine westernization. In 1701, having mandated the Hungarian caftan for his Moscow courtiers less than two years prior, Peter ordered all Muscovites and Moscow visitors, with the...
6. The Margin's of History: Ivan Turgenev's Eighteenth-Century Characters
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Waverley, or ’Tis Sixty Years Since (1814), a model novel for Sir Walter Scott’s own numerous subsequent fictions, for the historical novels of his many followers, and for theorists of historical fiction and the novel-as-genre, anchors its protagonist’s fateful ideological indecisiveness in fractious family history.1 While young Edward Waverley’s uncle, Sir Everard, upholds the family’s Tory...
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“Did the eighteenth century ever end in Russia?”—a colleague playfully retorted after I had suggested, also only half-seriously, that we consider the 1917 Revolution as one of its endpoints. In some ways of course it never did or, rather, as I hope to have shown throughout this book, the Russian eighteenth century came to connote certain resilient modes of governance and...
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Other Works in the Series
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Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2014
Series Title: Publications of the Wisconsin Center for Pushkin Studies