Modes and Functions of Imitation: Molière, Fonvizin, and Griboedov
The imitation of one cultural or societal group by another is a measure not only of how the imitators view the culture they seek to emulate, but also of how they judge themselves. With its literary and performance aspects, theater is a genre with a dual capacity to manifest and comment on culture. This study examines character types in satirical theatrical works by Fonvizin and Griboedov and their connections to similar character types in the earlier French tradition of Molière's satires The Misanthrope and The Bourgeois Gentleman. Tracing these specific influences acts as a lens through which to view the development of Russian theater in relation to the foreign models it emulated and eventually transformed into native theatrical idioms. Broader context on the problem of Russian imitation of France and the West is provided via an analysis of contemporary travel texts and an overview of secondary critical literature on mimesis, performance and cultural transfer. This study illustrates one important aspect of historical socio-cultural exchange between late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century France and Russia, as well as the potency of imitation as a force within a society or culture.
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