On Monday, November 19th, please join us for “A World of Empires: The Russian Voyage of the Frigate Pallada”, a book talk with Edyta Bojanowska.
When American Commodore Matthew Perry famously sailed to open trade relations with Japan in 1852, a Russian expedition secretly on the same mission followed on the heels of his squadron. Serving as secretary to the naval commander was novelist Ivan Goncharov, who turned his impressions into a book, The Frigate Pallada, which became a bestseller in imperial Russia. A World of Empires uses Goncharov’s fascinating travelogue as a window onto global imperial history in the mid-nineteenth century.
Reflecting on encounters in southern Africa’s Cape Colony, Dutch Java, Spanish Manila, Japan, and the British ports of Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, Goncharov offers keen observations on imperial expansion, cooperation, and competition. He recognizes an increasingly globalizing world in the vibrant trading hubs whose networks encircle the globe. Traveling overland back home, Goncharov praises Russia’s colonization of Siberia.
Slow to be integrated into the standard narrative on European imperialism, Russia emerges here as an increasingly assertive empire, eager to position itself on the world stage among its American and European rivals and fully conversant with the ideologies of civilizing mission and race.
Edyta Bojanowska is Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and Chair of the MacMillan Center’s European Studies Council at Yale University. She specializes in nineteenth-century Russian literature and intellectual history, focusing on the topics of empire and nationalism. She is the author of a prize-winning book Nikolai Gogol: Between Ukrainian and Russian Nationalism (Harvard, 2007) and of articles on Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Pushkin, Babel, and on topics in Polish and Ukrainian literature. She will be presenting her second book at the Jordan Center. Her third book project, under contract with Harvard Univ. Press, is Empire and the Russian Classics.