Regional Literary History: The Case of the Urals
The review considers the two-volume collective monograph A History of Urals Literature. The Nineteenth Century, edited by Professor E. K. Sozina and published in 2020. This work aims to present a regional literary history that transcends the boundaries of a single national tradition and seeks to reconstruct the complex multicultural phenomenon of literary life in the nineteenth-century Urals. The volume’s chapters are dedicated to the life and works of authors who lived in the region or visited it, the ways the Urals has been represented in travel writings, the literary traditions of the Bashkirs, the Komi, and the Udmurts, and the institutional infrastructure of Urals literary life (theatres, libraries, publishing businesses, periodicals, and literary societies). The reviewer seeks to determine the main trends in the literary developments behind the multitude of facts gathered by the authors and to articulate these trends in terms of relevant theoretical approaches. A series of biographies spanning the whole century makes it possible to detect the gradual autonomization of the literary field (Pierre Bourdieu). Travelogues and representations of the imaginary geography of the Urals appear to have been connected to the colonization and symbolic appropriation of this region by the Russian Empire. The development of literary institutions is regarded as a part of the history of the Russian public sphere (Jürgen Habermas). The complex interactions between the literary traditions of colonized peoples and Russian colonizers are seen through the postcolonial concept of hybridity (Homi Bhabha). Despite certain drawbacks, the work under review makes it possible to see literary life of the nineteenth-century Russian Empire as a multinational, multiconfessional, and multilingual network of actors and texts beyond the boundaries of the Russian national canon.
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