Visitation rights (and wrongs): Americans and Russians discover each other in narratives of travel between 1867 and 1905
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Drawing on the early Bakhtin's understanding of the crucial role of interaction in the aesthetic authoring of selves, my dissertation examines the diverse practices of crossing boundaries, tactics of translation, and experiences of double and multiple political and national attachments evident in texts resulting from Russo-American encounters during the second half of the nineteenth century. Among others, my study addresses the following questions: Is it possible to recapture the moments in which the energy of alternative national myths of subjecthood affected and produced the stable stereotypes of "true" Russian-ness or American-ness? How do the textual representations and constant slippage between such concepts as "home" and "abroad" in the fictional and non-fictional accounts of visitors and immigrants to Russia and America complicate the idea of "national literature?" My critical exploration of what Michael de Certeau has termed individual "pedestrian utterings" brings together published writings, archival materials, and personal correspondence of well or less known writers of diverse ethnic backgrounds and artistic predilections: from the quintessential American Mark Twain to the Russian-Jewish ethnographer and revolutionary Vladimir Bogoraz; from masters of realist prose such as the Ukrainian-born Vladimir Korolenko and the Russian-Jewish-American Abraham Cahan, to romantic wanderers like Edna Proctor, Isabel Hapgood or Grigorii Machtet. Ultimately, my analyses of chronologically ordered works by these and other Russian and American voyagers to "the other shore" hope to contribute to our comprehension of the processes involved in the invention of the idea of Russia as the archetypal American rival long before Churchill's famous "Iron Curtain" speech in 1946. By highlighting the coming into being and subsequent reification of problematic stereotypes of ethnic and racial difference, they also help understand more fully the astonishing success of the Cold War period's rhetoric of mutual hatred and exclusion, and its continuing legacy today.