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Dernière modification : 5 juillet 2017

Andrew KAHN

Université d’Oxford (Royaume-Uni)
Invité de l’ITEM – printemps 2018

Au printemps 2018, le labex TransferS et Nathalie Ferrand (ITEM) accueillent Andrew KAHN, professeur de littérature russe à l’Université d’Oxford (Royaume-Uni).

 

Ré-écrire les Lumières en Russie : centre et périphérie

I would conduct research for a book I am writing on the Russian Enlightenment, which is under active consideration by Princeton University Press. The chapters will cumulatively substantiate the case for Russia as part of the European Enlightenment, understood as a set of linked trends also shaped by national specificity. The essay will discuss major eighteenth-century Russian thinkers, poets, dramatists, satirists, travel writers, economists, and give considerable attention to Catherine the Great whose activism played a central role in the Russian Enlightenment project, and whose writings constitute a formidable narrative on her own Enlightenment ambitions.

The past twenty years have seen a boom in Enlightenment studies as an interdisciplinary field, and a shift away from descriptions of national enlightenments as self-enclosed to the Enlightenment as a set of coordinated, pan-European and transatlantic movements. Comparative study is remapping the Enlightenment and extending it to important peripheries. Paul Cheney has recently argued that the Enlightenment is the culmination of a global turn in the early modern world, marked by exchange of goods and ideas, certainly something readers can see in the creation of St Petersburg and its institutions. Jonathan Israel’s Radical Enlightenment takes it on faith that Russia had an Enlightenment, and he sketched some lines of affinity and transmission. More recent contributions by John Robertson and Ritchie Robertson seek to incorporate eighteenth-century Russia in their accounts of the history of ideas and social thought, but most scholars outside Russia have been stymied by the unavailability of texts in English and the absence of mainstream accounts and sometimes fall back on older work that is outdated and insufficient.

In historiography on the eighteenth-century Russia, modernization and Westernization of manners have dominated as themes, unsurprisingly since much of the scholarship has a focus on political history to the exclusion of literature and culture (and history of ideas). Conclusions about Enlightenment in Russia have largely been formulated and decided on the basis of Catherine’s approach to serfdom and management of nobles. For critics, her failure to dismantle serfdom and her appeasement of economic elites have been grounds on which to doubt her sincerity to professed ideals. Scholars who judge the Enlightenment solely by the implementation of legislative ideals tend to dismiss it as a mirage and publicity stunt or to subsume it into Westernization as a matter of social history.

 

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