Pushkin and Romantic Fashion: Fragment, Elegy, Orient, Irony

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Stanford University Press, 1994 - Literary Criticism - 412 pages
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Pushkin and Romantic Fashion is about the interpenetration of culture and personality, specifically Alexander I's Russian Empire, a latecomer in post-Napoleonic European history, and Aleksandr Pushkin, virtuoso improvisor yet prisoner of the Golden Age discourses that now bear his name. It focuses on Pushkin's use of the Romantic fragment, especially the link between the fragment and Romantic irony's fundamental and modern questioning of the sources and intentionality of language. In the view of such irony's most eloquent formulator, Friedrich Schlegel, "identity" does not precede speech, but is forged in each improvisational interaction with interlocutor or reader. One finds out who one is by speaking, and all utterances and texts stand in a fragmentary, contingent relation to an accumulating life-text. Pushkin may actually come closest of all major European poets to realizing what Schlegel prescribed, or diagnosed, as the poetics of modernity, not because of any direct links, but because as common latecomers on the European cultural scene, Russian and German writers shared a fascination with European fashions and an ironic talent for conflating or stepping outside them. Thus Pushkin's kaleidoscopic explorations of fashionable European genres, from "Augustan" erotic elegy to the archaic Greek lyric fragment, from the Byronic Oriental poetic tale to Shakespearean chronicle drama, from the modern "society tale" to the Walter Scott historical novel, can be seen as ever more dramatic rewritings of and meditations on a previous life-text. This fragmentary and ironic self-presentation has ensured that every generation of Pushkin readers, no matter how gilded with cultural authority the poetbecame, "talked back." The author is deeply concerned to embed Pushkin in a larger European context in a way critically consonant with the best in Western Romantic studies. She locates Pushkin's penchant for fragmentary structures in a European discourse of fragmentation, reveali
 

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Contents

A Genealogy
19
Russias Entry
56
Self as Other in
108
Whats in a Name? The Rhetoric of Imposture
156
Romantic Irony
205
The Kleopatra Tales
287
An Afterword
343
Notes
351
lndex
407
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