"East, West, Home is Best": The Grand Tour in D. I. Fonvizin's Pis'ma iz Francii and N. M. Karamzin's Pis'ma russkogo puteshestvennika

Ingrid Kleespies, University of California, Berkeley

The Grand Tour was a significant experiential and literary genre in eighteenth-century Western Europe. As I define it here, the Grand Tour was a cultural phenomenon that took the shape of what may be called a "life-genre" or "behavioral-genre" for those who participated in it. (I am applying this term from Baxtin and, more specifically, his colleague V. N. Voloshinov, who elaborates the concept of "zhiznennye zhanry" in Marxism and the Philosophy of Language). Many key features of the Grand Tour genre, as it was both enacted and described, can be defined in some Russian travel works of that period, and specifically in the travel writing of Denis Ivanovich Fonvizin and Nikolaj Mixajlovich Karamzin. Their texts have never been treated within the generic context of the Grand Tour, however. There are many elements in their works that indicate a "borrowing" from the European custom of the Grand Tour. These are found in the act of traveling to certain destinations, the nature of their writing, and the depiction of their travel experience. Can Fonvizin and Karamzin's travels and travelogues be said to constitute a Russian version of the Grand Tour? What is a "Russian" Grand Tour?

I will discuss how certain components of the Grand Tour genre were incorporated into these works, and further, how this incorporation/imitation succeeded in subverting the very notion of the Grand Tour itself. Importantly, in the works of both Karamzin and Fonvizin, establishing themselves within the Grand Tour framework allowed them access to certain qualities of the sophisticated and cosmopolitan European "gentleman." Subversion of the Grand Tour, however, enabled them to make a statement about Russian national identity, or emergent national consciousness. Here Russia is implicitly and explicitly contrasted with the nations with which the traveling writers come into contact, and is found to be superior to them. Russia, traditionally observed by Western European travelers, has now become the observer of the West. As Russian "traveling writers," Fonvizin and Karamzin observe as figures that have a role in creating their nation's perception of itself. In what terms does a Russian traveler or "traveling writer" observe the West? How does Russia's sense of itself as a nation between East and West fit into the identity of a Russian "gentleman" traveler? What is the importance of the Russian writer at this time in Russian culture? These are some of the major questions that I address in my paper.