The Epistolary Art of Catherine the Great is the first study to analyse comprehensively the letters of Empress Catherine the Great of Russia (reigned 1762-1796) and to argue that they constitute a masterpiece of eighteenth-century epistolary writing.
In this book, Kelsey Rubin-Detlev traces Catherine’s development as a letter-writer, her networking strategies, and her image-making, demonstrating the centrality of ideas, literary experimentation, and manipulation of material form evident in Catherine’s epistolary practice. Through this, Rubin-Detlev illustrates how Catherine’s letters reveal her full engagement with the Enlightenment and further show how creatively she absorbed and responded to the ideas of her century.
The letter was not merely a means by which the empress promoted Russia and its leader as European powers; it was a literary genre through which Catherine expressed her identity as a member of the social, political, and intellectual elite of her century.
Winner of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL)'s Best First Book Prize 2020. Winner of the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES)'s Alexander Nove Prize 2019.
'The monograph truly brings to life the complexity of Catherine’s voice as reflected in her letter writing art as it evolved over decades. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the cultural history of the eighteenth century, and an inspiring example of cultural and literary analysis of epistolary heritage.'
American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL), from their 2020 book awards.
'The book exhibits great imagination in the range of skills Rubin-Detlev demonstrates in spanning the broad historical grasp, theorisations of the letter genre and of gender construction as well as a fine sense of nuance when teasing out subtleties of evolving word usage or cliché, the nuances of Catherine’s switching between languages, and textual detail. All of these facets are seamlessly integrated with an engaging and imaginative writing style especially impressive in a first book.'
Prof. Judith Pallot (Christ Church, Oxford) and Prof. Jeremy Hicks (Queen Mary University of London), judges of the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES) Alexander Nove Prize 2019.