The Formation of a Variety of the Travelogue Genre: Travels Through Russia in 18th-Century French Literature
Keywords:genre, genre form, genre features, travel, travelogue, the Enlightenment
The article is devoted to the book by Jean Chappe d’Auteroche Voyage en Sibérie fait par ordre du roi en 1761, which laid the foundation for the development of that variety of the genre form of travelogue about Russia which is commonly called Russophobic. Its main features are 1) a biased attitude towards the country as barbaric, backward, populated by an unenlightened, immoral people, threatening the entire European world with its aggressiveness, 2) stereotyped assessments, 3) rejection of everything unique and unfamiliar to Europeans and therefore found condemnable. The book by Chappe d’Auteroche was the product of the beliefs widespread in the late French Enlightenment that it was necessary to destroy “the Russian mirage” and to return to the European stereotype of perception of the country as an epitome of barbarism. Such a view became the first generic feature of Russophobic travelogues. This was fiercely resisted by Catherine II, whose Antidote was not only an attempt to refute the judgments of Chappe d’Auteroche, but also the beginning of an information war between Europe and Russia. The illwill underlying the opinions of Chappe d’Auteroche about the country had alarmed Mikhail Lomonosov four years before the publication of the book by the French author. The French astronomer gave a merciless assessment of the despotic form of government in Russia and its consequences but remained bound by the stereotypes generally accepted in the West regarding the country that he had not studied well. The book is characterised by the following: intolerance and lack of understanding for other cultures, arrogance towards everything Russian as obviously flawed, an eagerness to judge the entire life of Russia without having studied and understood the country (influenced by political ambience and the reluctance to allow Russia on equal terms into the circle of European states), and relying on cultural stereotypes. All these became the main genre features of the travelogue about Russia, of which Chappe d’Auteroche can be called the creator.
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