Saturday, May 21, 2016

New books on 18th century Russian history

Bolotov image from
Full disclosure/confession: I wrote my dissertation on an eighteenth century Russian nobleman (and graphomaniac/pomologist), Andrei T. Bolotov (1738-1833)

How Russia Learned to Write
Literature and the Imperial Table of Ranks 
Publications of the Wisconsin Center for Pushkin Studies
David M. Bethea, Series Editor
How compulsory service to the state shaped the course of Russian literature
In the eighteenth century, as modern forms of literature began to emerge in Russia, most of the writers producing it were members of the nobility. But their literary pursuits competed with strictly enforced obligations to imperial state service. Unique to Russia was the Table of Ranks, introduced by Emperor Peter the Great in 1722. Noblesse oblige was not just a lofty principle; aristocrats were expected to serve in the military, civil service, or the court, and their status among peers depended on advancement in ranks.

Irina Reyfman illuminates the surprisingly diverse effects of the Table of Ranks on writers, their work, and literary culture in Russia. From Sumarokov and Derzhavin in the eighteenth century through Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, and poets serving in the military in the nineteenth, state service affected the self-images of writers and the themes of their creative output. Reyfman also notes its effects on Russia’s atypical course in the professionalization and social status of literary work.

Author. Photo credit, NameIrina Reyfman is a professor of Russian literature at Columbia University. She is the author and editor of several books, including Rank and Style: Russians in State Service, Life, and Literature and Ritualized Violence Russian Style.

The First Epoch
The Eighteenth Century and the Russian Cultural Imagination
Luba Golburt

Winner, Heldt Prize, Association for Women in Slavic Studies
Winner, Best Book in Literary and Cultural Studies, American Association of Teachers of Slavic and Eastern European Languages

Publications of the Wisconsin Center for Pushkin Studies
David M. Bethea, Series Editor

“A delight to read. Few people in Russian or English have produced readings of this caliber of the eighteenth-century poets. Luba Golburt brings to life material that has been frozen in a philological vault.”
—Andrew Kahn, author of Pushkin’s Lyric Intelligence
Modern Russian literature has two “first” epochs: secular literature’s rapid rise in the eighteenth century and Alexander Pushkin’s Golden Age in the early nineteenth. In the shadow of the latter, Russia’s eighteenth-century culture was relegated to an obscurity hardly befitting its actually radical legacy. And yet the eighteenth century maintains an undeniable hold on the Russian historical imagination to this day. Luba Golburt’s book is the first to document this paradox. In formulating its self-image, the culture of the Pushkin era and after wrestled far more with the meaning of the eighteenth century, Golburt argues, than is commonly appreciated.
Why did nineteenth-century Russians put the eighteenth century so quickly behind them? How does a meaningful present become a seemingly meaningless past? Interpreting texts by Lomonosov, Derzhavin, Pushkin, Viazemsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and others, Golburt finds surprising answers, in the process innovatively analyzing the rise of periodization and epochal consciousness, the formation of canon, and the writing of literary history.
Luba GolburtLuba Golburt is an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches nineteenth-century Russian literature in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.

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