Catherine the Great’s Cultural
• Patron of the arts, especially
theater, literature, journalism.
Founded the Hermitage
• Commissioned the
urbanscape of St.
Petersburg w/ palaces,
canals, monuments
• A prolific playwright, herself
the editor-in-chief of satirical
• First and only Russian
monarch to pen
autobiography in the tradition
of Rousseau
The martyrdom of the intelligentsia
• Alexander Radishchev,
1749-1802, exiled to Siberia
until 1797, committed suicide
• Nikolai Novikov, 1744-1818,
publicist, critic publisher,
sentenced to the
Schlusselburg fortress
• The motif of fathers killing
children, the regime
destroying the intelligentsia it
had sired
• Writers became Russia’s
secular martyrs
Nikolai Karamzin and Sentimentalism
• Revolution in literary prose
• Introduced new literary
language, the “language of
polite society:” pruned
archaisms, simplified syntax,
used calques from the
• Great Westernizer of
Russian literature:
-- introduced short story form
-- introduced fashionable
modes: Sentimentalism,
-- emphasis on creating
A Melancholy Renaissance
• Melancholia catch-all term
that encompassed nonpsychotic and less disabling
mental disorders that we
would now identify as
schizophrenia, personality
disorders, hypochondria
(somatic disorders),
depression, anxiety
• Also referred to passing
moods and in-born
• Revival of melancholy’s
positive associations
during the Renaissance
The gentle mocker of melancholy
“I have neither the scholar’s
melancholy, which is
emulation; nor the musician’s,
which is fantastical; nor the
courtier’s, which is proud, nor
the soldier’s, which is
ambitious; nor the lawyer’s,
which is politic, nor the lady’s,
which is nice, nor the lover’s,
which is all of these; but it is a
melancholy of mine own,
compounded of many simples,
extracted from many objects.”
- As You Like It (iv. I)
Sensibility, Sentimentalism, and
Sensibility: sensitive feeling,
tender emotion. Arose from
rational deism (deity remote,
individuals must rely on own
feelings for guidance)
Sentimentalism: literary and
cultural tendency in which
individuals indulge in pity and
tears to enjoy their own
benevolence or self-pity. Arose
in eighteenth century with belief
in humanity’s inherent
benevolence, affirmed by earl of
Shaftesbury to counter Thomas
Hobbes’ notion of essential
selfishness and Calvinist notion
of depravity after the Fall
Bliss of Melancholy
• But when the melancholy
fit shall fall Sudden from
heaven like a weeping
cloud, That fosters the
droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill
in an April shroud; Then
glut thy sorrow on a
morning rose, Or on the
rainbow of the salt sandwave, Or on the wealth of
globed peonies; Or if thy
mistress some rich anger
shows, Emprison her soft
hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep
upon her peerless eyes.
Melancholia: Russian case histories
• Consider “Poor Liza” and
The Superfluous Man as
Russian case histories of
melancholia. What
similarities do you note in
the characters,
situations, scenes, and
• How would Freud and
Seligman interpret them?
Which interpretation (or
aspects of the
interpretation) do you
find more convincing?
Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev, 1818-1883
• Born in province of Orel,
idle father, despotic and
sadistic mother
• “Bore the scars of a painful
childhood in the shape of
melancholy and self-pitying
• Belonged to “Men of the
• Nicknamed “the American”
for Westernizing, liberal
• Notes of a Hunter (1852),
Fathers and Sons (1862)
The Superfluous Man
“But I… of me nothing else
could possibly be said:
superfluous, that is all […]
This unhappy, fifth, wholly
unnecessary horse,
fastened in rough fashion
to the fore-end of a thick
rope, which ruthlessly
saws its haunches, rubs
its tail, makes it run in the
most unnatural manner,
and imparts to the whole
body the shape of a
comma, always arouses
my profound compassion.”
Decembrist Rebellion, Dec. 14, 1825
Aristocratic officers had
imbibed the liberalism that
was officially sponsored by
Alexander I
Two secret societies:Northern
Society (constitutional
monarchy) and Southern
Society (more radical, wanted
Republic, eliminate entire
royal family)
Uprising on December 14
wanted to restore Constantine
as heir to the throne
• Uprising suppressed,
leaders executed, others
exiled to Siberia

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