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Theses Doctoral

Noble Farmers: The Provincial Landowner in the Russian Cultural Imagination

Grigoryan, Bella

This dissertation examines a selectively multi-generic set of texts (mainstream periodicals, advice literature and fiction) that responded to a cultural need to provide normative models for the Russian nobleman's domestic life and self, following the 1762 Manifesto that freed the gentry from obligatory state service. The material suggests that a prominent strain in the Russian novelistic tradition that took the provincial landowner as a central object of representation developed in the course of a series of encounters between prescriptive and creative literatures. In chapter one, the cross-pollination between generically diverse segments of late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century print culture (namely, Andrei Bolotov's agricultural advice and Nikolai Novikov's satirical and Nikolai Karamzin's mainstream journalism) is read as crucial for the formation of a proto-novelistic prose idiom for the representation of the nobleman in the provinces. In chapter two, the growing professionalization and concomitant commercialization of Russian letters is treated as a prominent factor in the polemical relations between Faddei Bulgarin and Nikolai Gogol. I suggest that prescriptive literature about farming and journalistic responses to it are a significant component in the intertextual links between Bulgarin's Ivan Vyzhigin and Gogol's Dead Souls. In chapter three, Ivan Goncharov's oeuvre is read as a self-conscious attempt to arrive at the novelistic representation of a successful province-bound nobleman. His novelistic trilogy--A Common Story (Obyknovennaia istoriia), Oblomov and The Precipice (Obryv)--is situated vis-à-vis a growing corpus of Russian domestic advice literature to suggest that Goncharov's prose re-works the extra-literary material. In broad terms, the study may be viewed in two, mutually supplementary, ways as (1) a "thick description" of three moments in the formation of novelistic gentry selves understood to be always in dialogue with prescriptive texts that sought to provide a normative discourse about a productive noble private life in the provinces and (2) a re-appraisal of writers long considered central to the establishment of the Russian novelistic tradition, with especially close attention paid to how these foundational figures navigated a multi-generic field of cultural production.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Slavic Languages and Literatures
Thesis Advisors
Reyfman, Irina
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
March 1, 2013
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