The Narrative of Noble Decline and the Discourse of Money in Saltykov-äčedrinís Gospoda Golovlevy

Ewa Wampuszyc, University of Michigan

The increased importance of money in everyday economic life found its expression in the rapidly growing print culture (both literary and journalistic) of late nineteenth-century Imperial Russia. In light of pivotal economic and social changes such as banking reforms, developing industry and trade, and the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, the discourse of money dramatically changed in the Russian public sphere, redefining relationships between seemingly well-defined value systems, such as social and aesthetic. In turn, this process of redefinition was often reflected in the link between the language of money, and the real and imagined narrative of noble decline Ė a narrative used to express and re-evaluate individual and communal values and expectations.

Within this context, my proposed paper considers the role of monetary discourse in the literary and journalistic oeuvre of Saltykov-äčedrin. More specifically, I will present a study of monetary discourse as it relates to the narrative of noble decline in the novel Gospoda Golovlevy. Beginning in the period prior to the reforms and ending in the 1870s, Gospoda Golovlevy depicts the moral and material decline of a landowning family. Though the basis for this decline is strongly associated with the value of family, äčedrinís characters often evaluate familial affection (or lack thereof) through the language of money. Through the study of this language, my paper will answer the following questions: As a landowner himself, how did äčedrin represent the moral and economic decline of the gentry through the prism of a monetary discourse? To what extent does the monetary discourse of Gospoda Golovlevy develop from or reflect a monetary discourse in äčedrinís broader literary and journalistic oeuvre? How does this approach follow the general trends of the period? To what extent does this monetary discourse redefine the concept of nobility, not only from a practical, economic perspective, but also from the perspective of other systems of value (such as class, ethnicity, profession, etc.)?