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Haunted EmpireGothic and the Russian Imperial Uncanny$
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Valeria Sobol

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501750571

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501750571.001.0001

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A Gothic Prelude

A Gothic Prelude

Nikolai Karamzin’s “The Island of Bornholm”

(p.27) Chapter 1 A Gothic Prelude
Haunted Empire

Valeria Sobol

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines the earliest and the most “classical” Gothic tale in Russian literature — Nikolai Karamzin's The Island of Bornholm (1793) where the Russian traveler, stranded on a mysterious Danish island, is surprised to learn that the island used to be populated by Slavs. The fictional traveler's investigation of the mysteries of the island (deriving from possible incest and the resulting punishment) becomes a journey back to the dark pagan origins of Russian history and a Gothic prelude to Karamzin's later historical project. The Island of Bornholm remains an isolated phenomenon in late-eighteenth-century Russian literature, unique for its complex fusing of Gothic tropes and historical concerns.

Keywords:   Gothic tropes, Russian literature, Nikolai Karamzin, The Island of Bornholm, Danish island, Slavs, Russian history

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