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Catherine's Retinue: Old Age, Fashion, and Historicism in the Nineteenth Century

Luba Golburt
Slavic Review
Vol. 68, No. 4 (Winter, 2009), pp. 782-803
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25593789
Page Count: 22
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Catherine's Retinue: Old Age, Fashion, and Historicism in the Nineteenth Century
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Abstract

Beside her political and cultural legacy, Catherine II bequeathed to the nineteenth century a certain striking image of the body and spirit of the eighteenth: an aging aristocratic lady, inflexible in her behavioral routines and visibly unaware of historical change. This image was codified by Aleksandr Pushkin in The Queen of Spades and, much later, satirized by Ivan Turgenev in several of his novels. Highlighting the recurrence of these copies of Catherine the Great in nineteenth-century Russian prose, Luba Golburt interprets the narrative and historical implications of fashion and aging in this period that was fascinated with historical knowledge and imagination. The persistence of the past embodied by these figures posed a challenge to the otherwise widely embraced Hegelian notions of progress, underscoring the repetitive and ritualistic rhythms of historical experience. These figures also extended the realist narrative's historical scope and made possible a range of polyphonous temporal structures.

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