Cultures of Reading in Imperial Russia
What did it mean to be a reader in imperial Russia? What did people read, and to what ends? How was literacy cultivated, and what were the social implications? In this course, students will read several canonical works of nineteenth-century Russian literature that thematize and foreground the act of reading: as a pursuit undertaken for the betterment of self, society, nation, and world; as a light pastime for the bored or underemployed; but also as an enterprise fraught with potential for moral or civic ruin. In addition to closely investigating allusions to the specific texts and authors read by literary characters, we will also examine the reading habits of our own authors as both consumers and producers of literary culture. We will consider these dynamics against a backdrop of constant fluctuations in educational policies, the book market, and the circulation of texts within and beyond Russia as we work together to develop an understanding of the imperial Russian reading public(s).