The First Epoch: The 18th Century and the Russian Cultural Imagination

Luba Golburt
Berkeley Book Chats
Image of Golburt's book cover
Wednesday, Jan 27, 2016 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall
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United States

Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures Luba Golburt specializes in Russian literature and culture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Her book The First Epoch (Wisconsin, 2014) examines the complex place of the eighteenth century in the subsequent Russian literary tradition, tracing how Russian writers paradoxically view the epoch as at the same time formative for Russian culture and obsolete.

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. Yet the eighteenth century maintains an undeniable hold on the Russian historical imagination to this day. 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. 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.

After an introduction by Harsha Ram (Slavic Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature), Golburt will speak briefly about her work and then open the floor for discussion.