Russian Literature and Empire Conquest of the Caucasus from Pushkin to Tolstoy Synopsis
This is the first book to provide a synthesising study of Russian writing about the Caucasus during the nineteenth-century age of empire-building. From Pushkin's ambivalent portrayal of an alpine Circassia to Tolstoy's condemnation of tsarist aggression against Muslim tribes in Hadji Murat, the literary analysis is firmly set in its historical context, and the responses of the Russian readership too receive extensive attention. As well as exploring literature as such, this study introduces material from travelogues, oriental studies, ethnography, memoirs, and the utterances of tsarist officials and military commanders. While showing how literature often underwrote imperialism, the book carefully explores the tensions between the Russian state's ideology of a European mission to civilise the Muslim mountaineers, and romantic perceptions of those tribes as noble primitives whose extermination was no cause for celebration. By dealing with imperialism in Georgia as well, the study shows how the varied treatment of the Caucasus in literature helped Russians construct a satisfying identity for themselves as a semi-European, semi-Asian people.
Russian Literature and Empire Conquest of the Caucasus from Pushkin to Tolstoy Press Reviews
...I find this a most useful and interesting book, and recommend it to anyone interested in nineteenth-century Russian Literature as well as in the larger question of cultural construction....an important study on a fascinating topic. Russian Literature and Empire should become a standard work in the collections of all Slavists. Slavic and East European Journal This is a well-written and well-researched book which traces the history of the large and infuential body of literature, produced mainly in the nineteenth century, about the Russian Empire's colonialist expansion into the Caucasus and southern border regions....Layton's nuanced and eminently readable interpretations combine textual exegesis with the reception of the works and with the historical context of the fortunes of the war and public opinion. One of the strengths of her book is that she analyzes not only the major writers but also the little Orientalizers who rode on the coattails of the major writers, and she also includes an analysis of mass-consumption broadsides and popular nonfictional accounts of the conquest. In many cases Layton's readings of texts are quite original, and I learned a great deal from them....Layton smoothly navigates among the pitfalls of the constantly changing scholarly (Russian Review continued) perspective on this extremely influential group of texts reaching from Pushkin to the old Tolstoy....Layton has provided a wonderfully detailed, organized book on a far-flung, complicated subject, and anyone who reads, teaches or researches the writers she treats should certainly consult this book. The Russian Review In laying bare the ambivalent and often contradictory expectations of this market, Layton is acute and perceptive...there is much to be learnt from this investigation of an imperial relationship which contained elements of both the creative and the destructive. Goeffrey Hosking, Russian Literature