Dressing Russia’s Golden Age: Literary Representations of Clothing in the Era of Nicholas I (1825–1855)
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Green, Daniel Luke Claude
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CitationGreen, Daniel Luke Claude. 2018. Dressing Russia’s Golden Age: Literary Representations of Clothing in the Era of Nicholas I (1825–1855). Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines how writers in the era of Nicholas I used literary descriptions of dress to mediate social hierarchies and reveal and challenge structures of power. The dissertation also shows how writers used their everyday understanding of dress to navigate their relationships with the state, to establish their position in literary society, and to test out the possibilities for representing the world in their works. Russia's national literature emerged at a time when dress codes, imposed from above, created a rich semiotic world of significances. These represented the control of the state over its subjects, but also provided a space for creative and oppositional behaviour.
Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov provide models for using dress to negotiate the position of writer with the state. The peasant disguise in Pushkin’s “The Noblewoman-Peasant” exposes the restrictive frameworks in which the nobility lived and foreshadows Pushkin’s own subterfuge to publish the cycle of which the story is a part. Later, in The Captain’s Daughter, an item of peasant clothing involved in life-or-death exchanges during the time of the Pugachev uprising reflects the tension Pushkin felt between his obligations and desires as an individual and those associated with being a public figure and Russia’s foremost writer. In Lermontov’s Hero of Our Time, the Caucasian setting and adoption of ethnic Caucasian dress allows behaviour that would otherwise be unacceptable. In the society tale of the novel, “Princess Mary,” Lermontov is able to criticise Russian society in a way acceptable to the censors, protected by its disguise as a Caucasian tale.
Vladimir Odoevskii and Karolina Pavlova harness clothing to push against the wider publishing and critical environment in which writers operated. Odoevskii’s “Princess Mimi” critiques society for the limited roles it offers women, resulting in pernicious codes of behaviour masquerading as propriety. The story’s criticisms of social structures parallel Odoevskii’s own railing against the worst aspects of journal culture in other forums. Pavlova’s Twofold Life explores the exclusion of women from men’s social and creative roles. Just as her heroine is restricted to a world interested in fashion, Pavlova struggled to have others see her as a writer and not a decorative adjunct to the literary sphere.
Finally, Nikolai Gogol employs dress as a means to explore the signifying practices of society and literature. His stories “Nevskii Prospect,” “The Nose,” and “The Overcoat” experiment with the boundaries between a person and society what it means to recreate a world and create a person in a literary work.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41121241
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