We are pleased two announce two Anglo-Russian Research Network events for summer 2021. Both these events are on Zoom, and details and links to the Eventbrite booking pages are below.
The New Age (1907-1922), a controversial British weekly, is well-known as an arena for heated debates on culture, arts, and politics. Russian literature stands out in the eclectic subject array of the magazine as one of the most frequently and fervently discussed topics. The New Age played a crucial role in dissemination of Russian culture in Edwardian and WWI Britain and to a large extent contributed to the ever-growing fashion for Russian fiction and poetry, most notably via the mechanism of constant polemics (including interperiodical ‘polemical networking’). This talk will focus on The New Age in context: comparison with The Egoist (1914-1919), another influential little magazine, allows us to trace how the discussion of Russian literature reflected the attempts of two prominent intellectual circles to comprehend the challenges of modernity. Looking at polemics as the principal editorial strategy of both titles, this talk will examine how debates around Russian authors fit into a number of discourses, pivotal for Anglo-American modernism: cultural and historical continuity, powers and limitations of language, functions of literature and literary criticism in the changing society, importance of cross-cultural literacy, understanding “the Other”. Furthermore, the talk will discuss the contribution of notable Anglo-Russian mediators into the cultural exchange between two empires, as individual figures as well as the agents of a broader network (Alfred Orage, C.E. Bechhofer, Paul Selver, John Cournos, and other authors).
Tolstoy arrived in London in March 1861. Exactly how much time he spent in the city is a matter of debate; however, whether his stay lasted twenty days or six weeks (Tolstoy claimed both at different times), the brief visit was productive and left a lasting impression on him. He toured English schoolrooms, visited Alexander Herzen’s home, was bored by Lord Palmerston’s speech at the House of Commons, wandered almost daily through the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum), met Matthew Arnold (maybe), and heard Charles Dickens speak (maybe), all while suffering from a debilitating toothache. A month after his departure, Tolstoy remarks ungratefully in his journal that London left him with ‘a disgust for civilization.’
In this talk, I will draw on Tolstoy’s letters, a draft for his short story “Lucerne” (“Liutsern,” 1857), his journal entries, and his published didactic articles, to examine Tolstoy’s attitude to both England and the English people, and how this attitude changed throughout his life. We will consider the following questions: What brought Tolstoy to London and what did he accomplish there? What did Tolstoy think of England prior to his arrival in London, particularly following his 1857 sojourn to Paris? Did the 1861 journey to London alter his view? How did the English education system contribute to Tolstoy’s own involvement with educational reform in Russia? Finally, why did Tolstoy spontaneously decide to emigrate to England in 1872 – to ‘settle first somewhere near London, and then find a beautiful and healthy spot near the sea’ – despite his professed disdain for Europe? In considering these questions, we will gain a deeper insight into Tolstoy’s critique of European civilization that informed so much of his writing and thought.