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Title: Civic Feeling: Pushkin and the Decembrist Emotional Community
Authors: Wang, Emily Ambrose
Advisors: Wachtel, Michael A
Contributors: Slavic Languages and Literatures Department
Keywords: Alexander Pushkin
History of Emotions
Subjects: Slavic literature
Slavic studies
Comparative literature
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: My dissertation offers a new approach to the Decembrists, an influential group of noblemen remembered as the “first Russian Revolutionaries,” and to their poetry in particular. I argue that the participants in the uprisings in December 1825 at Senate Square and in Ukraine were not members of an organization with a defined political program, but rather a loosely linked network, an emotional community brought together by a shared Sentimentalist understanding of sincere feeling, friendship, and social justice. Significantly, although they formed their group as an alternative to official culture, in some ways the community of the rebellious Decembrists paradoxically mirrored the sentimental “scenario” of Alexander I’s reign, as described by historian Richard Wortman. In this way it was distinct from the more cynical and Voltairean libertine community to which the poet Alexander Pushkin and most of his schoolmates from the famous Lyceum school belonged, although prevailing wisdom would to conflates these groups. While Pushkin and the Decembrists overlapped socially, their emotional worldviews differed and shaped their political understanding of the world. Focusing on this dynamic, I offer a new interpretation of a key moment in Russian literature derived from one of the period’s own key categories: feeling. My understanding of “emotional community” derives from a notion developed by historians William Reddy and Barbara Rosenwein. They apply it to groups with an emotional framework that differed significantly from those of the official culture (or “emotional regime”). I also draw on Yuri Lotman’s concept of the Decembrist as a specific behavioral type, but adjust it by focusing on emotion as a regulator of behavior. By “emotion,” I refer to the emotional model that the Decembrists constructed and followed, as distinct from the physiological affects that all humans experience. Focusing on emotion allows me to connect Decembrist behavior to Decembrist literature, which in this period had an explicitly emotive function. In addition to providing a new understanding of the role literature, and especially poetry, played in this group, attention to feeling also allows me to consider how and why certain key texts (like Pushkin’s “Vol’nost’,”) might have been understood differently in different communities.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Slavic Languages and Literatures

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