Down Russian Rivers: a Travelogue of the Modern Era

Elena Milyugina, Mikhail Stroganov

Abstract


The article is devoted to the phenomenon of travelling by water in Russian culture. Modern literary and cultural studies usually describe travelling from the point of view of anthropology. However, the natural conditionality of travelling lies outside the scope of research. The purpose of the article is to prove that it is advisable to carry out comprehensive research of travelling through the close interdependence of its human and natural components.

The nature-centred analysis of the phenomenon of travel has not become common practice among national scholars yet, and therefore the authors actualize the idea of nature-centrism (ecocentrism), established in world research practice, particularly in the western discourse of ecocriticism (works of L. Buell, Yu-Fu Tuan, F. Jameson, V. Plumwood). The key idea of the spatiotemporal concept is that space is the subject of the narrative and everyday human life, mental experience, cultural languages being conditioned to a greater extent by the category of space than the category of time. This approach makes it possible to consider space as a palimpsest of consecutive place experiences which seems productive for the analysis popularity of certain loci and itineraries with travellers.

Limiting their research goals by the cultural approach, the authors demonstrate the effectiveness of the nature-centred analysis of travelogue discourse and present their own results of Tver water travelogue research. They analyze how travel is determined by the element chosen by the traveler as a means to travel and what the conditions of paths that are imposed by the elements of nature are. The stereotypes connected with the use of land and water as roads formed in traditional culture are compared with a new attitude to the natural conditions of travelling in the modern culture. The authors explore different genres of water travelogue –from luxurious to mass-cultural.

The article presents observations related to water voyages around Tver region. The authors conclude that in pre-Petrine Russia, in the 16th–17th centuries, travelling diplomats were forced to choose river routes as comfortable overland roads did not exist at the time. In the 18th century, after the organization of artificial water systems, the travelers’ attitude to the water trips changed significantly. Water routes became an integral part of luxurious voyages, their indispensable component, a central part. By the end of the 18th century, private travellers had clearly realized the benefits of land transportation: it was more comfortable and faster. Since the mid-19th century land and water trips have counterbalanced each other to a certain degree, although their functions are different as can be seen in the travelogue. In overland journeys, the cognitive function comes to the foreground, and water voyages are made predominantly for recreational purposes. To a certain extent, this separation of functions between water and land trips remains.


Keywords


elements as roads; water trip; water travelogue; Upper Volga.

References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2015.2.098

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