Poor Liza? Pushkin's polemic with Karamzin in "The Squire's Daughter"

Julia V. Sagaidak, University of Pittsburgh

The works of Karamzin, including his first novella, Poor Liza (1792) became a reference point for nineteenth-century Russian literature. Poor Liza and several other novellas written by Karamzin remained the favorite native prose works among Russian readers until the appearance of Pushkin's and Gogol's stories in the 1830s.

Pushkin repeatedly refers to Karamzin's works in his Belkin Tales. Pushkin scholars have written about the ironic tone (e.g. Nikolaj Gej, Naum Berkovskij) and theatricality (e.g. Jurij Lotman) of "The Squire's Daughter", written during the period of mature romanticism. This irony is directed in large part toward the pre-romantic Poor Liza. However, a detailed comparative analysis of these novellas has not been done.

My presentation will focus on Pushkin's polemic with Karamzin in "The Squire's Daughter". This analysis will include the motifs of game playing, toys; masquerade and masks (including language masks); theatricality, and "telling tall tales" in juxtaposition with "the state of nature" in Poor Liza. I will also examine the philosophical issue of happiness and its purely literary resolution by Pushkin in "The Squire's Daughter", which was written on the eve and against the background of the poet's marriage.