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From Orientalism to Cultural Capital

The Myth of Russia in British Literature of the 1920s

Olga Soboleva and Angus Wrenn

From Orientalism to Cultural Capital presents a fascinating account of the wave of Russophilia that pervaded British literary culture in the early twentieth century. The authors bring a new approach to the study of this period, exploring the literary phenomenon through two theoretical models from the social sciences: Orientalism and the notion of «cultural capital» associated with Pierre Bourdieu. Examining the responses of leading literary practitioners who had a significant impact on the institutional transmission of Russian culture, they reassess the mechanics of cultural dialogism, mediation and exchange, casting new light on British perceptions of modernism as a transcultural artistic movement and the ways in which the literary interaction with the myth of Russia shaped and intensified these cultural views.

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List of Figures

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Figures

Figure 1‘Novelists Who May Be Read in A. D. 2029’, Manchester Guardian, 3 April 1929.
Figure 2The number of texts (fiction) related to Russian subject-matter based on the bibliography in Anthony Cross, The Russian Theme in English Literature from the Sixteenth Century to 1980: An introductory survey and bibliography (1985).
Figure 3The number of texts (fiction and first-hand travel accounts) related to Russian subject-matter based on the following sources: Fiction – Anthony Cross, The Russian Theme in English Literature from the Sixteenth Century to 1980 (1985). Travel literature – based on a combination of data from Anthony Cross, In the Land of the Romanovs: An Annotated Bibliography of First-hand English-language Accounts of the Russian Empire (1613–1917) (2014); Andrei N. Zashikhin, Britanskaia rossika vtoroi poloviny XIX-nachala XX veka (1995); H. W. Nerhood, To Russia and Return: An Annotated Bibliography of Travelers’ English-Language Accounts of Russia from the Ninth Century to the Present (1968).
Figure 4H. G. Wells’ drawing of Lenin, letter to Upton Sinclair, early 1919.
Figure 5Tamara Karsavina as Karissima and Basil Forster as Lord Vere in The Truth about the Russian Dancers (1920). Press Association collection. ← vii | viii →
Figure 6Original design: The Truth about the Russian Dancers by Paul Nash. Victoria and Albert Museum.
Figure 7Costume design by Paul Nash (for Tamara Karsavina). Victoria and Albert Museum.
Figure 8Photo of Angelica Bell, daughter of Vanessa Bell and niece of Virginia Woolf, in costume as the Russian Princess from Woolf’s novel Orlando. Tate Archive.