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A Nation Astray

Nomadism and National Identity in Russian Literature

Ingrid Anne Kleespies

Publication Year: 2012

The metaphor of the nomad may at first seem surprising for Russia given its history of serfdom, travel restrictions, and strict social hierarchy. But as the imperial center struggled to tame a vast territory with ever-expanding borders, ideas of mobility, motion, travel, wandering, and homelessness came to constitute important elements in the discourse about national identity. For Russians of the nineteenth century, national identity was anything but stable.

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Quote

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pp. 1-6


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pp. vii-8

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pp. ix-x

I would like to convey my gratitude to the many colleagues and friends who have contributed to the completion of this book. The idea for it was conceived while I was a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley; thus my first thanks and largest debt are to the illustrious faculty there who set me on...

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pp. 1-22

The lines above come from Dostoevsky’s famous 1880 “Pushkin Speech,” delivered in Moscow at the first public commemoration of Pushkin in Russia since the poet’s death in 1837. The Pushkin Jubilee, as it was known, was a highly significant literary and historical event, one that reveals a great deal about the...

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Chapter One: Tracing the Topos of the Eternal Russian Traveler: Karamzin’s Letters of a Russian Traveler and Dostoevsky’s Winter Notes on Summer Impressions

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pp. 23-46

Karamzin’s 1797 Letters of a Russian Traveler (Pis’ma russkogo puteshestvennika) and Dostoevsky’s 1863 Winter Notes on Summer Impressions (Zimnie zametki o letnikh vpechatleniiakh) are at first glance very different texts, lying as they do at the outer boundaries of the Russian Romantic period, yet they exist in...

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Chapter Two: Chaadaev’s Wayward Russia: Capturing the Trace of an Errant History

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pp. 47-80

Of the Russian Romantics of the 1820s and 30s, Petr Iakovlevich Chaadaev (1794–1856) has frequently been described as the most ironic and paradoxical.1 A philosopher, he published only one major work in his lifetime, and that, apparently, against his will. Publication of that work—the First Philosophical...

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Chapter Three: A Poet Astray: Pushkin and the Image of a Nomadic Wanderer

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pp. 81-112

The poet Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin occupies a central role in the Russian literary-historical imagination: he is the emblematic Russian poet—the most Romantic of Russian Romantics--and has typically been viewed as the quintessential Russian, or even as an embodiment of Russian identity. As...

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Chapter F our: “A Journey around the World by I. Oblomov”: Goncharov’s Unlikely Eternal Russian Traveler

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pp. 113-143

The lines above come from an early passage in Ivan Goncharov’s 1858 account of his travels around the world aboard the Russian ship the Frigate Pallas.2 The book of the same name describes his nearly three-year journey from 1852–1855 as official secretary on a Russian government-sponsored mission to Japan. The...

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Chapter Five: A Radical at Large: Alexander Herzen and the Autobiography of a Russian Wanderer

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pp. 144-174

Prevented by his liberal political views and critical attitude toward the government from being “at home” in the repressive Russia of Nicholas I, the noted Russian Socialist thinker and writer Alexander Herzen spent most of his adult life abroad. From 1847 until his death twenty-three years later, he moved...

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pp. 175-183

In conclusion, this book returns to its starting point, Dostoevsky’s Pushkin speech of 1880. As I hope I have shown, the “Russian wanderer” whom Dostoevsky both named and vociferously bemoaned in the speech is a phenomenon that reaches far beyond the confines of Pushkin’s work or even Dostoevsky’s analysis....


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pp. 185-218


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pp. 219-234


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pp. 235-242

E-ISBN-13: 9781609090760
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875804613

Page Count: 265
Publication Year: 2012