Vasilii Polenov, the Balkan Wars, and Landscape Painting in the Russian Periodical Press (with Stephen Urchik and Discussant Lucien Frary)



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Before Vasily Polenov obtained lasting recognition as a landscapist, history painter, and outstanding exponent of the Slavic crafts revival, he was a humble artist-correspondent on the front lines of the Serbo-Turkish and Russo-Turkish wars. This talk examines Polenov’s wartime contributions to the Russian mass-circulation illustrated weekly Pchela and his later battle paintings for the Romanov royal family. Polenov mobilized the tropes of pastoral art to depict murder beautifully in darkly critical landscapes about the miseries of war. In particular, we explore the possibility that Polenov’s later, more charismatic scenes of Russian rural life may have been conceived in dialectical relationship with the purportedly fecund environment of the Balkans. Panslavic discourse of the day expressed embarrassment at the relative prosperity of the Ottoman subject peoples whom the Russian volunteers thought they fought to save. Polenov’s tumbledown treatment of the whitewashed, Bulgarian cottage ubiquitous in this literature could very well be a polemical use of the “picturesque.” Polenov’s paintings invoke a style of attractive disrepair, that lets the connoisseur of landscape overlook inconvenient details, to demote these well-kept properties and help the liberators see what they first wanted to see.

This event recording is now available on YouTube.


Sons of Moral Enlightenment: The Decembrist Generation and Russian Emotional Culture (with Stanislav Tarasov and Discussant Ludmilla Trigos)



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A very common assertion in scholarship, and one suggested by the Decembrists’ reminiscences, is that the “romantic rebels” were “the children of 1812.” That being true, the Decembrists were first and foremost sons of the Enlightenment. In a literal sense, they were the sons of their fathers, who represented the generation of the Age of Reason in its Russian variant. While the intellectual impact of “Decembrist fathers” on their rebellious sons has not been properly studied, a closer look uncovers that Decembrists imbibed their parents’ values through their family upbringing. This process also occurred through public education and public letters. It is no accident that some Decembrist fathers were also educators and men of letters, such as M. N. Muravev, I. M. Muravev-Apostol, and A. F. Bestuzhev. The Decembrists’ intellectual debt to the Enlightenment’s political ideas has been established by scholars. Yet, the future rebels also acquired the norms of noble “emotional culture” which were based on a Russian variant of the Scottish philosophy of “moral sentiments” and exemplified in works of the Decembrist fathers’ generation. We tend to think of these revolutionaries as parting ways with their fathers’ traditions and values, yet the Decembrists were immersed in their fathers’ emotional culture of moral “noble feelings,” which also carried a latent political charge.

This event recording is now available on YouTube.


The Specificity of Russian Orientalism in Vasily Polenov’s ‘Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery’ (with Anastasia Loseva and Discussants Nadieszda Kizenko and Emily Laskin)



Join us for another 19v seminar! Please note that this event will be held in Russian. 

The conception and execution of the picture “Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery” (Who among you is without sin?, 1887, State Russian Museum) can be seen as constituting the boundaries of a twenty-year period in the work of Polenov. Fundamental within this period is a trip to the “East” — to Egypt and the Holy Land — which the artist undertook in 1881-1882.

In what “semiotic field” did Polenov’s idea for this painting take shape during the 15 years that preceded his trip? In fact, he formed a peculiar “Orientalist” complex of ideas even before turning to Oriental subjects. Do these ideas change when Polenova actually travels to the East and encounters the “real Orient”? How do biblical and Orientalist models coexist in this painting? Where in Polenov’s symbiosis of models can we locate the peculiarity or specificity of Russian Orientalism? These are some of the questions that our talk will address. We will also argue that the complex of ideas underlying Polenov’s biblical idea closely resembles that found in European artists’ depiction of spectacles that legitimize public contemplation of the naked female body. At the same time, Polenov shifts the focus of his interest from the heroine to the image of the crowd. The literature on Polenov customarily constrasts the crowd of Christ’s disciples with the crowd of those persecuting the woman taken in adultery. In our view, however, his pictorial solution itself provides no basis for such a contrast. For Polenov, the crowd “on both sides of Christ” itself embodies a topos of “the Oriental” and allows him to demonstrate two modalities of Oriental behavior that he had had the opportunity to observe in the East.

Специфика русского ориентализма в картине Василия Поленова «Христос и грешница»

Зарождение замысла картины «Христос и грешница» (Кто из вас без греха?, 1887, ГРМ) и его исполнение можно назвать границами двадцатилетнего периода в творчестве Поленова. Принципиальной вехой внутри этого периода оказывается путешествие на Восток – в Египет и Святую Землю, которое художник предпринимает в 1881 – 1882 годах.

Каково «семиотическое поле» творчества Поленова, в котором происходит формирование замысла картины за 15 лет предшествовавших поездке? В нем еще до обращения к восточным сюжетам формируется своеобразный «ориенталистский» комплекс идей. Меняется ли он, когда художник приобретает опыт восточного путешествия и столкновения с реальным Востоком? Как сосуществуют в этой картине Поленова библейские и ориенталистские модели? Что в этом симбиозе можно назвать cвоеобразием русского ориентализма? Вот круг вопросов, которые будут затронуты в докладе.

Мы увидим, что, с одной стороны, комплекс идей, которые лежат в основе этого библейского замысла Поленова , очень близок тому, который европейские художники находят в изображении зрелища, легитимизирующего публичное созерцание обнаженного женского тела, с другой, Поленов смещает фокус своего интереса с изображения героини на изображение толпы. В исследовательской литературе принято противопоставлять толпу учеников Христа толпе гонителей грешницы. Однако, на наш взгляд, само живописное решение не дает оснований для такого противопоставления. Для Поленова толпа «по обе стороны Христа» воплощает своего рода топос ориентального и дает возможность продемонстрирует два модуса ее поведения, которые художник имел возможность наблюдать на Востоке.

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Masculinizing the Russian Elite: Metropolitan Filaret (Drozdov)’s Purge of Early Nineteenth-Century Society (with Kate Antonova and Discussant Marta Łukaszewicz)



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Focusing on the decades-long persecution of Colonel A. P. Dubovitskii for his supposed ties to mystic Ekaterina Tatarinova, this paper traces the sources of the investigation to a fundamental divide in Church and state between Petersburg Metropolitan Serafim (Glagolevsky), Alexander I, and the generation that fought the Napoleonic wars, on the one hand, and a new generation that comes to power with Nicholas I and Moscow Metropolitan Filaret (Drozdov), who use the aftermath of the Decembrist Rebellion to justify a much broader purge of the Russian service class in favor of a specifically masculine as well as more conservative elite culture.

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The Palgrave Handbook of Russian Thought Book Presentation (with Marina Bykova and Lina Steiner and Discussants Anne Eakin Moss, Caryl Emerson, and Mikhail Epstein)


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Edited by Marina Bykova, Michael Forster, and Lina Steiner, the Palgrave Handbook of Russian Thought provides an in-depth survey of major figures, currents, and developments in Russian and Soviet intellectual history. It brings together a wide range of leading scholars from Europe, Russia, and North America to reveal the richness and unique interdisciplinary character of Russian thought.

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Reading in 19th-century Russia – A Presentation of “Reading Russia: A History of Reading in Modern Russia, vol. 2” (with Damiano Rebecchini and Raffaella Vassena and Discussant Yukiko Tatsumi)



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While scholars of Russian culture generally pay great attention to the study of authors and texts, they sometimes neglect readers. Our volume, Reading Russia. A History of Reading in Modern Russia (Milano, Ledizioni, 2020, vol. 2, open access), is the attempt of an international team of scholars to describe the history of the relationship between Russians and their favorite books. Among the many metaphors used herein to describe reading – as a form of appropriation, of education, of poaching, complicity, a religious cult, and so on – it is the idea of the amorous rendezvous that strikes us as most apt for rendering the encounter between Russian readers and books. The history or story of reading in Russia can be seen as a love story between Russian readers and their favorite authors, the story of a love that develops in different forms and rhythms in the context of the different communities in which these encounters take place and via texts that continually assume new forms, at times more judicious and at times more enthralling. While this love story was sometimes encouraged by others, it more often took place discreetly, hidden from view, becoming all the while even more passionate. In this presentation, this volume’s editors, Damiano Rebecchini and Raffaella Vassena, will highlight the most important stages of the relationship between Russian readers and texts and reflect on how the study of readers and reading practices can contribute to a deeper understanding of 19th-century Russian literary and cultural history.

Watch the event recording on YouTube here.

 

 


The Literary Fund and the Shaping of the Writer’s Profession in Russia in the Second Half of the 19th Century (with Mikhail Makeev and Discussant Helen Stuhr-Rommereim)



Join us for another 19v seminar! Please note that this talk will be in Russian.

Возникновение и работу «Общества для пособия нуждающимся литераторам и ученым» (Литературного фонда) традиционно рассматривают в аспекте благотворительности, как проявление и доказательства присущих русской литературе и отдельным ее представителям гуманности и милосердия. Полезным представляется, однако, и другой угол зрения на эту организацию: как на институт, возникший в результате фундаментальной трансформации поля литературы в России, формирования литератору как профессии. Изучение повседневной практики Литературного фонда позволяет увидеть, как меняется, даже практически заново вырабатывается понимание того, что такое писатель, в чем смысл и ценность его работы.

The emergence and the work of the “Society for the Aid of Writers and Scholars in Need” (The Literary Fund) are traditionally seen in terms of charity, that is as the manifestation and demonstration of the humanity and charity inherent in Russian literature and in its individual representatives. It is useful, however, to examine the Literary Fund from yet another perspective, namely as an institution whose appearance results from a fundamental transformation of the literary field in Russia: the formation of the writer’s profession. Examining the daily activities of the Literary Fund allows us to see changes in (and even thorough reformulations of) contemporary understandings of what a writer is and where the meaning or value of his or her work lies.

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The Cheaper, the Better: Obligation, Culture, and Russia’s 19th century (with John Randolph and Discussant Olga Maiorova)



Join us for the first 19v seminar of the new academic year!

What defines Russia’s 19th century in the history of empire? And what relevance might this periodization have for analyses of cultural and literary production?  In this talk, building from my research into the history of communication in the Russian empire, 1500-1900, I will try to think through these questions.  Starting from early 19th century official anxieties about how Russia’s modern civilization came to be, I’ll explore ambitions across the century to shift the costs of maintaining that civilization onto markets.  I’ll then consider the relevance of that “economy of services” for attempts to produce a distinctly 19th century culture in Russia, on the example of the emergence of the classical mid-century art-song genre, the “coachman’s song” (iamshchitskaia pesn’ia).

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Uses of the Past and Literary Scandals: Scholarly Knowledge and Historical Drama in the Russian Empire (with Kirill Zubkov and Discussant Victoria Somoff)



Join us for another 19v seminar! This lecture will be in Russian.

“Использование прошлого и литературные скандалы: Научное знание и историческая драматургия в Российской империи”

В середине 1860-х гг. случилось несколько событий, которые, на первый взгляд, никак не связаны друг с другом: сотрудники нескольких университетов в печати обрушились с сокрушительной критикой на Академию наук, академик Никитенко разочаровался в способностях своих коллег оценить литературное произведение, известный писатель А. К. Толстой написал трагедию «Смерть Иоанна Грозного», но не получил за нее литературной премии, на которую претендовал, а его коллега Островский, тоже писавший исторические пьесы, постепенно перестал быть любимцем литературной критики. Казалось бы, прямой связи между этими происшествиями нет и быть не может. В действительности, однако, их объединяют сложные трансформации, которые претерпевало историческое сознание в Российской империи эпохи реформ. Эти трансформации во многом определили и изменение статуса отдельных организаций и социальных институтов, таких как Академия наук, университеты, русская литература и критика. При анализе этих институтов складывается концептуальная рамка, сквозь которую можно увидеть, каким образом они развивались, каково было их место в эволюции государства и публичной сферы в Российской империи и какие социальные и политические функции они выполняли. При таком подходе история литературы и история научного знания рассматриваются не как изолированные сферы, а как две стороны одного и того же процесса.

Uses of the Past and Literary Scandals: Scholarly Knowledge and Historical Drama in the Russian Empire

In the mid-1860s there were several events that, at first glance, had nothing to do with one another: members of several universities sharply criticized the Academy of Sciences in the press; аcademician Nikitenko was disappointed in the ability of his colleagues to adequately evaluate a literary work; the well-known writer A. K. Tolstoy wrote a tragedy entitled “The Death of Ivan the Terrible”, but did not receive the literary prize he’d hoped for; and his colleague Ostrovsky, who also wrote historical drama, gradually ceased to be the darling of literary critics. It would seem that no direct connection exists between these events and yet, they are in fact united by the complex transformations that were undergone by historical consciousness in the Era of Reforms. These same transformations effected changes to the status of certain organizations and social institutions, including the Academy of Sciences and universities, as well as Russian literature and criticism. The conceptual framework that emerges from this analysis of these institutions allows us to better understand their development, their place in the evolution of the Russian imperial state and public sphere, and the social and political functions that they fulfill. The history of literature and the history of scholarly knowledge are approached not as isolated spheres, but as two sides of the same process.

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Cultivating the Reader in Late Nineteenth-Century Russia (with Brian Kim and Discussant Anne Lounsbery)



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The rapid growth of literacy in the Russian Empire of the second half of the nineteenth century gave rise to attendant debates concerning the roles that reading could play in the moral and intellectual development of the individual. In this talk, Professor Kim examines how such figures as Leo Tolstoy, Vissarion Belinsky, and Nikolai Rubakin approached the task of guiding new readers to worthy texts that would maximize their potential for self-improvement, and by extension, the improvement of society as a whole. Their concerns encompassed not just the available kinds of reading material for newly literate populations, but also the preparation, motivations, and psychology of the reader, leading to a focus on the cultivation of the reader and on what responsibilities lay with authors, critics, and pedagogues to help shape the discourse and practices surrounding reading. However, these thinkers conceived differently of the rights of individuals to make their own choices in this regard. This talk also explores the various ways in which they navigated the ethical question of whether and how to direct the reading activities of others.

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Shorthand, Violence and Melodrama: Folk Stories by Marko Vovchok Between Ukrainian and Russian Culture (with Alexei Vdovin and Discussant Sara Dickinson)



Join us for another 19v seminar – the first of the summer series!

Судьба и творчество Марии Вилинской-Маркович (псевдоним – Марко Вовчок) сыграли важную роль в развитии женского письма и прозы о крестьянах в украинской и русской литературах. Три сборника ее народных рассказов из украинского и русского быта (1858, 1859, 1861) стали литературной и даже политической сенсацией. Если украинские рассказы Вовчок существенно повысили культурный престиж украинского языка в Российской империи и позже вошли в канон украинской литературы, судьба рассказов Маркович о русских крестьянах сложилась совершенно иначе и совсем не так благополучно. Чтобы объяснить причины столь разной репутации, в докладе будет представлен компаративный анализ типа наррации, жанрового модуса и социального воображаемого в украинских и русских рассказах Марко Вовчок. Результаты анализа показывают, что украинские и русские рассказы Маркович существенно отличаются в жанровом и сюжетном плане. Уровень и формы домашнего и межсословного насилия в русских рассказах настолько выше и разнообразнее, чем в украинских, что это превращает русские рассказы в аналог женского социального романа (feminine social novel) и мелодрамы. В заключении доклада будет показано, как русские критики и писатели (Н.А. Добролюбов и Ф.М. Достоевский) дискредитировали эстетическую ценность русских рассказов Вовчок и тем самым предопределили ее исключение из русского литературного канона.

The literary fate of Mariia Vilinskaia-Markovich (pseudonym – Marko Vovchok) and her work has played an important role in the history of writing by women and writing about the peasantry in Ukrainian and Russian literatures. Vovchok’s three collections of folk stories from Ukrainian and Russian life (1858, 1859, 1861) were literary and even political sensations. While her Ukrainian stories significantly raised the cultural prestige of the Ukrainian language in the Russian Empire and were later included in the canon of Ukrainian literature, Vovchok’s stories about Russian peasants met with a very different and much less propitious fate. In order to explain the diverging trajectories of her Ukrainian and Russian reputations, we examine the stories from each tradition comparatively according to types of narration, generic modes, and the social imaginary. The results of our analysis demonstrate that her Ukrainian and Russian stories differ significantly in terms of both genre and plot. Moreover, the greater level of violence — both domestic and between sosloviia — and the wider range of forms assumed by such violence in Vovchok’s Russian stories transforms these into an analog of the feminine social novel and melodrama. We conclude by showing how Russian critics and writers (Dobrolyubov and Dostoevsky) discredit the aesthetic value of Vovchok’s Russian short stories and thereby predetermine her exclusion from the Russian literary canon.

This talk is given in Russian. 

Watch the event recording on YouTube here.


19v Seminar Series: 19v Annual Collective Meeting and One-Year Jubilee



At one year after the official founding of 19v, the Working Group on 19th-Century Russian Culture, we are going to take a communal pause to reflect on the course of the last year, rest briefly on our laurels, and think together about the future. Please join us to share your comments, ideas, concerns, and to help us chart our plans for 2021-2022.

All participants and fellow travelers are welcome!

Watch the event recording on YouTube here.

 


Paying for Sex in the Late Russian Empire (with Siobhan Hearne and Discussant Colleen Lucey)



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In this talk, Siobhán Hearne will give an overview of her new book Policing Prostitution: Regulating the Lower Classes in Late Imperial Russia, before presenting her chapter that focuses specifically on men who paid for sex, a group that are often silent in histories of prostitution. The demand side of the commercial sex industry was supposed to be faceless. Unlike women registered as prostitutes on the Empire’s system of state regulation, clients’ names and photographs did not appear on any special police registers, nor were their ethnicities, ages, family backgrounds, occupations, and migration patterns of interest to the authorities or statisticians. However, the state regulation of commercial sex created the conditions for the appearance of the voices of clients on the historical record. In attempting to organize the registration and examination of all women thought to be selling sex, the Russian imperial state established itself as a service provider, and certain urban clients lodged complaints with their local authorities when they were unhappy with the service. Through regulation, the state professed a desire to prevent the spread of venereal diseases and this was also used to justify interventions into the lives of certain controlled male populations, like migrant workers and military personnel. This talk examines the complex relationship between men who paid for sex and Russian imperial state to interrogate everyday experiences of the regulation system and constructions of masculinity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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‘A Brilliant Anomaly’: Nadezhda Durova/Aleksandr Aleksandrov’s Queer Autofiction (with Margarita Vaysman and Discussant Connor Doak)



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In Russia, the nineteenth-century writer Nadezhda Durova (1783-1866) is well-known as a cross-dressing ‘Cavalry Maiden’, a young noble woman who in 1806 left her home in provincial Russia and served, under the name Aleksandrov, as a cavalry officer during the Napoleonic wars. Outside of Russia, there has been in the last decade a sustained interest in Nadezhda Durova/Aleksandr Aleksandrov as one of the very few canonical genderqueer figures in Russian literary history who have left first-hand accounts of their lived experience. In this talk, Professor Margarita Vaysman will discuss the surprising convergences between these two approaches to Durova/Aleksandrov’s legacy, and suggest a new inclusive and historically informed framework which can help us do justice to their literary work and complex biography.

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Sentimental Realism, or Literature in Russia (with Hilde Hoogenboom and Discussant John Randolph)



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The study of literature in Russia challenges notions about the markets, readers, and writers of Russian literature, which was quite well integrated with European markets. According to my data, foreign novels accounted for around 90% of the market through the middle of the century. European sentimental novels, translations, and women writers circulated internationally, and were central to the fabric of nineteenth-century literary life throughout Europe and Russia. George Sand may be the most studied of European women writers in Russia, but given her outsize international role, she is vastly understudied and not properly understood. Sand played a central role in shaping Russia’s novels, which becomes evident when we examine how Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia, Ivan Turgenev, and Fyodor Dostoevsky each in turn transformed her 1842 novel Horace. They had inherited a problem that was central for Pushkin in Eugene Onegin and his prose: how to adapt European novels to Russia’s distinctive noble service culture.

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The Family-State Idiom and 19th-Century Russian Literature: Contract versus Affect (with Christy Monet and Discussant Alison Smith)



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In this presentation Jordan Center Visiting Scholar Christy Monet will explore the family-state idiom as a central part of 19th-century Russia’s imperial political imaginary. In 1806, the Russian Academy of Sciences completed publication of N.M. Yanovsky’s dictionary, which defined homeland (otechestvo) as “a body constituted from many families that together form one and the same political family (politicheskoe semeystvo) of which the sovereign (gosudar’) is and ought to be the father.” On the one hand, absolutist Russian authorities had long made use of hierarchical familial imagery and rhetoric to tie rulers and subjects together in a process of “legislating the affections” toward service and obedience, as had other European monarchs. On the other hand, while liberal responses to absolutism elsewhere in Europe had gradually dissociated the family from their contractual conceptions of a freer politics, liberal responses to absolutism in 19th-century Russia did not altogether follow this pattern. The image of the family remained crucial amongst the intelligentsia in their formulation of critiques and alternatives to Russian absolutism, even as absolutist understandings of the family-state idiom were being abandoned. Did Russian thinkers in the 19th-century reform era experiment with liberal varieties of the family-state idiom that have remained heretofore unheard of in Western traditions of political thought? In what ways might the affective underpinnings of family-state idiom have been preferred by Russian thinkers, as opposed to the detached, individualistic, legalistic conceptions of liberal politics elsewhere in Western Europe? And how can Russia’s family novels of the 19th century help illustrate the particularities of Russia’s engagement with liberal ideas during its tumultuous decades of late-imperial reaction and reform?

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Three Merchant Men Who Longed for Love and How They Fared: Stories of Sentiment from Marriage, Household and Home in Modern Russia (with Barbara Alpern Engel, Discussant: Bella Grigoryan)



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Based on her forthcoming book, Marriage, Household and Home in Modern Russia: from Peter the Great to Putin (Bloomsbury Academic), Barbara Alpern Engel will explore the diffusion of sentimental ideas beyond the noble elites that comprised their initial audience.  From the reign of Catherine the Great through the first half of the nineteenth century if not later, she contends, those ideas rendered elite standing contingent on a person’s behavior, values, ideals and feelings, as well as their position in the social hierarchy and/or proximity to the ruler.    They thus opened the door to a new kind of social mobility and at a time when economic and other changes, including the expansion of education, fostered greater mobility, too.   Set in the first half of the nineteenth century, three case studies of men of the merchantry, the only social group in Russia whose privileged status rested on wealth, will suggest the complexity of what the “trickling down” of sentimental ideas might mean in practice.

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Botanical Illustration as a Source for Studying Imperial Russia (with Christine Ruane, Discussant: Richard Wortman)



Join us for another installment of the 19v Seminar Series!

The territorial expansion of the Russian Empire (1700-1917) brought about new forms of administration, a new official language, new foods, and even new ways of dress.  In recent years a number of scholars have helped us understand Russia’s imperial project by analyzing government documents, memoirs, travelogues, and other print media to give voice to the daily experiences of Russians and non-Russians as they negotiated their way in this imperial space.  But how would our understanding of the Russian Empire and its colonial ambitions deepen if these texts were used alongside images of the new imperial landscape?

This presentation seeks to address this question by analyzing how government administrators, botanists, and commercial capitalists used botanical illustrations to “russify” the vegetation and by extension the land in which it grew.  To understand how this process took place, Professor Christine Ruane will use apples as a case study to show how botanists’ cataloguing and description of these fruits led to important changes in the ways that Russians and non-Russians understood the fruit growing in the landscape.  As a result of this transformation, these representations of Russian plant life helped imperial subjects and administrators to reimagine familiar lands and vegetation as a new political, cultural, and economic entity called Imperial Russia.

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Turgenev’s Modern Pastoral: Peasants and the Struggle with Modernity in Russian Realism (with Jenny Flaherty, Discussant: Kirill Ospovat)



Join us for another installment of the 19v seminar.

Watch the event recording on YouTube here.

This talk will explore how the pastoralism of Notes from a Hunter neither ignores history nor gives up on the nostalgic dream of frozen time as it moves between poles of dynamism and repose and struggles with the relentless expectations of progress together with the complacency of self-acceptance. While characters battling against the past and dissatisfied with the present become the material for Turgenev’s later novels, the pastoral present, a temporal position alternating between energy and repose, shapes Turgenev’s mature narrative in response to the problem of freedom raised by the exploration of peasant life.

 


Love and Revolution: Alexander Pushkin’s “Gabrieliad” and the Erotic Utopia of an American Socialist (with Ilya Vinitsky and Discussant Maksim Hanukai)



Join us for another installment of the 19v Seminar Series!

Watch the event recording on YouTube here.

In this talk, Professor Ilya Vinitsky, with discussant Maxim Hanukai, will focus on aesthetic and ideological implications of the first translation of the “Gabrieliad” (Гавриилиада, 1821) into English (and, for that matter, into any foreign language) by Max Eastman (1883-1969). Eastman was an American poet, novelist, essayist, socialist, feminist, friend of John Reed, and editor of left-wing modernist magazines The Masses and The Liberator. He was also Leon Trotsky’s biographer, translator, and unofficial literary agent, introducing Western readers to Lenin’s so-called “Testament.”

Why did a nineteenth-century frivolous poem turn out to be such a magnetic text for Eastman, as well as for the cohort of other Western translators? Professor Vinitsky argues that the paradox of the “Gabrieliad” is that this bawdy and blasphemous work has been read in the West as a poetic manifesto of free love and the emancipation of women, appealing to author-translators with corresponding ideological agendas—and life experiences. The subjective narrative model in the poem (humorous digressions, recollections, calls to “off-screen” addressees, the poetics of a biographical riddle) offered translators (and their muses and co-authors) an invitation to personalize the text in different historical and cultural periods.