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Rethinking Orient

In Search of Sources and Inspirations


Edited By Adam Bednarczyk, Magdalena Kubarek and Maciej Szatkowski

The contributions in this book address a vast variety of questions concerning the sources and mutual inspirations in Oriental and European literatures. The authors discuss selected texts from both historical and synchronic perspectives. They reveal and scrutinise the sedimented layers in their search for the original as well as for the repetitive and universal. The book revolves around the creative reception of one’s own cultural heritage and of works which originated in other cultures.

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Dressing Japanese: The Russo-Japanese War and The Oriental Body in Fedor Sologub and Andrej Belyj (Martina Morabito)


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Martina Morabito

University of Genoa Italy

Dressing Japanese: The Russo-Japanese War and The Oriental Body in Fedor Sologub and Andrej Belyj*

Abstract: This paper analyses the Orient’s role as a source of alternative and chiefly negative identity in Russian culture in the first three decades of the 20th century. It examines three Russian novels that illustrate different stages in the development of what may be described as Russian “self-orientalization”. In each of these novels, a Western fascination with Japanese geishas, widespread in Europe since the publication of Pierre Loti’s Madame Chrysanthème (1887), is interwoven with the political and cultural discourse of the “yellow peril” that circulated in Russia. As each of these novels demonstrates, the Russian who dresses up like a Japanese woman is both a threat to the moral order and an object (and an active subject) of sexual desire.

Key words: Fedor Sologub, Andrej Belyj, Russo-Japanese War, Japonism

The Russo-Japanese war (1904–1905) dramatically divided two political, historical, and cultural eras, and has been generally conceived as the event that triggered the Revolution of 1905, the subsequent revolutions of 1917, and the resulting collapse of the tsarist Empire. As with every meaningful historical event, it influenced the writers of that time. As David Wells has noted “within the ambit of Russian literature, representation of this war has been manipulated to serve a variety of ideological and aesthetic ends.”1 While critics have tended to...

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