Economies of Feeling

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3546-8

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3545-1

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ISBN 978-0-8101-3544-4
Publication Date
June 2017
Page Count
216 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Economies of Feeling

Russian Literature under Nicholas I
Jillian Porter

Economies of Feeling offers new explanations for the fantastical plots of mad or blocked ambition that set the nineteenth-century Russian prose tradition in motion. Jillian Porter compares the conceptual history of social ambition in post-Napoleonic France and post-Decembrist Russia and argues that the dissonance between foreign and domestic understandings of this economic passion shaped the literature of Nicholas I’s reign (1825–1855).
Porter shows how for Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, and Faddei Bulgarin, ambition became a staging ground for experiments with transnational literary exchange. In its encounters with the celebrated Russian cultural value of hospitality and the age-old vice of miserliness, ambition appears both timely and anachronistic, suspiciously foreign and disturbingly Russian—it challenges readers to question the equivalence of local and imported words, feelings, and forms.
Economies of Feeling examines founding texts of nineteenth-century Russian prose alongside nonliterary materials from which they drew energy—from French clinical diagnoses of “ambitious monomania” to the various types of currency that proliferated under Nicholas I. It thus contributes fresh and fascinating insights into Russian characters’ impulses to attain rank and to squander, counterfeit, and hoard. Porter’s interdisciplinary approach will appeal to scholars of comparative as well as Russian literature.
About the Author

JILLIAN PORTER is an assistant professor of Russian in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Colorado Boulder. 

"Porter’s book is one title in a recent wave of scholarship on 'new economic criticism' and the affective humanities, which seek to investigate economic metaphors and paradigms as an integral part of literary analysis and return the importance of affect (emotion, feeling, bodily relation, identification) to the scholar’s toolbox. Recommended." —CHOICE 

"[Economies of Feeling] offers an attentive and original reading of the texts under discussion, showing that their emotional and material aspects are thoroughly intertwined. Straddling literature, philosophy, and cultural history, this important work will be of use to researchers well beyond Slavic Studies." —Slavic & East European Journal

"[T]he most important contribution of this eloquent, sharply reasoned, and thoroughly researched book is that it demonstrates how much we can still learn about—and from—the classics of nineteenth-century Russian literature, provided that we are willing to ask new questions and question old assumptions." —Modern Language Quarterly

"Porter’s book succeeds both in terms of its historical and economic insights and of its perceptive reading of some classics of nineteenth-century Russian literature. What it demonstrates most clearly is the undeniable benefit derived by all of these fields thanks to the adoption of a truly interdisciplinary humanities approach to the discussion of literary culture." —Slavic Review

"This is an impressive addition to the rich corpus of Russian literary criticism. Economies of Feeling may be a relatively slim volume, but it packs more of substance and interest in its pages than books twice its size. However familiar readers might feel they are with the texts discussed here, they will find a book that refreshes their minds, challenges any received ideas and, above all, encourages them to return to the stories themselves." —Slavonic and East European Review

?"An extremely impressive study of some canonical Russian classics in highly sophisticated dialogue with European literary, critical, and philosophical tradition. Porter’s writing is precise, even elegant, and is a pleasure to read." —Susan McReynolds, translator of The Brothers Karamazov (Norton Critical Edition) and author of Redemption and the Merchant God: Dostoevsky’s Economy of Salvation and Antisemitism

"It is no small accomplishment to say something new and interesting about canonical works by Pushkin, Gogol, and Dostoevsky. Jillian Porter succeeds by finding an unusual point of entry and through exemplary close readings. Throughout, Porter writes lucidly and displays admirable attention to detail, making her book valuable both as cultural history and as a contribution to the interpretation of individual works. Her choice of visual material greatly enhances the study." —The Russian Review