Sentimental novels and Pushkin: European literary markets and Russian readers

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Abstract

This article examines literature in Russia, as opposed to Russian literature, through the window of Tat′iana's reading, especially two novels by Sophie Cottin, in Aleksandr Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. A quantitative, sociological approach to European markets for novels shows that Russians and Europeans were reading the same popular French, German, and English sentimental novels by August von Kotzebue; Stephanie-Felicite, comtesse de Genlis; August Lafontaine; and Cottin. Pushkin, however, positioned himself in the Russian literary field with the canonical novels of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Samuel Richardson, and Madame de Stael, against the “mediocre” novels of Cottin. Nevertheless, in his ongoing efforts to write Russian novels, Pushkin covertly engaged with popular sentimental novels to integrate their conservative emphasis on duty, virtue, and love with Russian noble life. I argue that a likely intertext for the eponymous heroine of The Captain's Daughter was Cottin's European bestseller Élisabeth, ou Les exilés de Sibérie (1806).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)553-574
Number of pages22
JournalSlavic Review
Volume74
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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