Translating Russia for the French imagination 1856-1894 /

by Brookes, Nanci Christine.

Abstract (Summary)
iii Franco-Russian relations in the nineteenth century have been the subject of many studies on both sides of the Atlantic. Though the periods surrounding Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 and the Crimean War have been studied in detail, the period between the end of the Crimean War (1856) and the beginning of the Franco-Russian alliance (1894) is rarely or summarily treated. This time span, however, marked a critical transition in Franco- Russian relations, as well as changes in French national identity as France passed from the Second Empire to the Third Republic. This dissertation is a study of France’s print culture representations of Russia—with Russia functioning as a prism of sorts through which to see France—that bring to light aspects of France’s construction of itself. This study aims therefore to define how France constructed various notions of itself by examining evidence of cultural relationships between France and Russia during a crucial period for the development of French national identity, the second half of the nineteenth century. Overarching concepts in the study are the notions of cultural translation, both literal and figurative, as the French encountered Russian culture and attempted to “translate” it into a more comprehensible French idiom in words or images, as well as the idea of Russia as a borderland. Among the types of representations the study considers are Russian literature in translation, French travel literature, French children’s literature set in Russia, advertisements, and caricature. To explore the varied and changing French perspectives on Russia during the second half of the nineteenth century, I rely on approaches and methods in cultural history and cultural studies (border studies in particular), but also turn to sociology of culture and semiotics. iv The study’s importance lies primarily in its examination of French constructions of national identity, manifested in a pseudo-colonial discourse that emerged from some French representations of Russia. The French made assessments about Russia similar to those France formulated about its own colonies. During a period of rapid expansion of the French colonial empire, this treatment of Russia by the French points to a globalizing colonialist attitude that was not restricted to its colonies, but which pervaded French opinions about other countries with which it came into contact, Russia among them. However, as France moved towards its alliance with Russia in 1894, this discourse was modified. After the Second Empire, France looked at Russia increasingly as its partner against a unified Germany and softened its past positions, concentrating on the exotic and enchanting aspects of the country. The French attitudes towards Russia revealed in print culture elucidate the tensions within France over its own unstable identity at home and in an increasingly divided Europe.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Pennsylvania State University

School Location:USA - Pennsylvania

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:

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