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Bounding the Russian Frontier: Mythologies of Space and Identity in Narratives of Russian National Expansion
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Title: Bounding the Russian Frontier: Mythologies of Space and Identity in Narratives of Russian National Expansion
Physical Description: Fellowship proposal
Creator: Kleespies, Ingrid
Publisher: Kleespies, Ingrid
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2012
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General Note: Harvard University Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Senior Fellowship proposal (awarded)
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Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: AA00012135:00001

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Ingrid Kleespies Bounding the Russian Frontier: Mythologies of Space and Identity in Narratives of Russian National Expansion. Professional Development I am writing to apply for an academic year Senior Fellowship at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies in t he amount of $26,000 in order to undertake research for my second book manuscript, Bounding the Russian Frontier This project is in the early stages of development and would benefit greatly from the opportunity to pursue research full time and from the c hance to engage with Russian scholars from across the discipline s The manuscript would al so be ver y much strengthened by access to the Slavic collections at the Harvard University Libraries. I will wri te three core chapters over the course of the year a nd plan to complete the entire manuscript in 2014. A Davis Center Senior Fellowship would provide me with the opportunity to complete this project in a timely fashion. Project Description Overview In many ways comparable to the phenomenon of the Ameri can frontier, with its conflicting myths and realities, the Russian frontier played an important if under examined, role in nineteenth century Russian national consciousness. While not typically perceived as a frontier nation in the way that America has traditionally been understoo d, Russia in the mid nineteenth century did possess a frontier, or space of outward and potentially infinite national expansion to the east. In the Russian context, perceptions of a frontier and of national, rather than imper ial, expansion or what I term a discourse of frontieriority were complicated by the particularities of the Russian situation. The very notion of a Russian frontier provokes a number of compelling questions: How did national expansion differ from imper ial growth in Russian consciousness? Where, in fact, did the Russian nation, or homeland, end and the frontier begin? What differentiated a Russian frontier from its influential American counterpart of ? Could a nation that was defined mo re or less in terms of ethnicity, traditional culture, and territory in part bounded by the Ural Mountains transport or translate itself beyond these bounds into new space? Was Russian settlement of land to the east of the Urals an example of internal col form of Russian civilization, as many writers attempted to describe it at the time ? Unlike nineteenth century American culture, to a large degree defined by the v ery notions of movement, expansion, and growth, Russian identity was linked by most thinkers and writers of the time to the idea of an ethnically and territorially defined core even if this identity was itself problematic in many ways. Yet, there was a h istorical frontier that supported Russian migration and settlement and th e image of this frontier played a key role in Russian litera ry imaginings of national identity in the nineteenth century. A sense of frontieriority also plays a n important role in th e Socialist Realist treatment of Soviet space in the early twentieth century, and this book in part investigates the historical roots of Soviet frontier discourse in the nineteenth century literary tradition It also examines the ways in which the discour se of nineteenth century Russian frontieriority both drew from and distinguished itself from the contemporary paradigm of American expansion.

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Kleespies 2 The notion of a Russian frontier co exists with, and in many cases, coincides with, a variety of conceptions of Ru ssian space. These range from a concern with Russian vastness and as, alternately, a gold mine, a natural paradise, and a prison. The Russian frontier, in br oad terms, overlaps with the territory of Siberia, the space bounded by the Ural mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and, to the north and south, the Arctic Ocean and the borders with China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan. This vast space is not undifferentiated, yet as a whole, it comprised a uniquely large and rich frontier territory during the four centuries of Russian exploration and conquest of the region. Tales of discovery and observation throughout this period played an important part in establishing Siberia as a frontier in the Russian imagination. The image of a frontier brings to mind certain key associations: confrontation between civilization and nature, the process of history in the making, the potentially infinite expansion of t (e.g. Russian outposts in California and Alaska), and social and political egalitarianism. 1 An important further element of the aesthetics of frontierority is its uncanniness, or the co existence of the familiar and the unfamiliar, as socio cultural ele into the wilderness necessarily changes both, and raises the question as to whether the frontier represents the beginning of a new history or t he development of an extant national narrative. This is a particularly troublesome question in the Russian context, where issues of national identity Alexander Herzen argues in (1858)? Or was the reality of the frontier something quite different, as Ivan Goncharov takes pains to show in Frigate Pa llas (1858) when standing social problems, even as he pays lip service to a Comparisons between Siberia and America were frequent from the late eighteenth century on and th e image of a Russian frontier with the corresponding implication of a more or less politically free society existing in a state of nature was a seductive and popular one. As historian Mark Bassin has noted, Russians did conceive of Siberia very much i n terms of an American style frontier. 2 The popular fashioning of Siberia, and ultimately, Russia itself, in America's image came to a high point in the latter half of the 1850s, at the time that Goncharov was writing his description of an overland journe y across Siberia and Sergei Aksakov was publishing his memoirs of a settler childhood at the borderlands of the frontier Its promise of freedom was such that Russian authorities were hesitant to develop the region for fear of revolt or secession. They w ere even concerned about a possible Siberian union with America. 3 Yet, as scholars such as Vera Tolz have shown, Siberia was frequently cast in idealized terms as part of Russia proper. 4 It was also meant to serve as a wealth producing extension of Russi a itself. The absence of serfdom lent particular strength to the idea of Siberia as a frontier, or as a new and egalitarian national space. Regarded positively by most observers, the lack of the deeply ingrained, traditional Russian social practice w as frequently noted by travelers to the region. Life in the far eastern stretches of the empire seemed to represent a Russian society in 1 See Bennington, "Frontier," 224 26. 2 3 Bassin, "I nventing Siberia," 775. 4 Russia, 163 4.

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Kleespies 3 5 A loosening of clas s strictures and corresponding increase in socio economic mobility were In addition to these more general cultural perceptions, images of the Russian frontier and the discourse of frontierority (infini te space, social renewal, sociopolitical equality) began to pla y a significant role in canonical nineteenth century Russian literature. Even alongside accounts of House of the Dead Frigate Palla s presented Siberia in a more positive light as a frontier rather than as a wilderness or prison. Other notable works include: Sergei Family Chronicle (1856) and Childhood Years of Bagrov the Grandson (1856) My Past and Thoughts Siberian narod in the 1870s From (1890), and Even earlier, Russian writers and men of letters, such as Nikolai Polevoi (a native Russian Siberian), made the far Russian eas Moskovskii telegraf along with that of the lesser known writers Ivan Kalashnikov and Nikolai Shchukin, helped to popularize an image of Siberia as a natural paradise that stood in stark 6 Moreover, several popular non fiction accounts of the history of the Russian conquest of the region appeared in the 1830s and 40s. These accounts, along with depictions of the region by contemporary travelers and scholars such as N. S. Shukin A Trip to Yakutsk (1830) G. Gegenstrom Sketc hes of Siberia (1830) and Baron Journey along the Northern Coastline of Siberia and the Arctic Ocean from 1820 24 (1842) glorified the expanding Russian presence in Siberia, and, on occasion even compar ed it to the Spanish exploration of the N ew World 7 In this book, I will consider the phenomenon of the Russian frontier and its role in national consciousness from a number of angles. I will argue for its broader relevance to a Russian literary discourse of space and identity that dates to th e early nineteenth century and that represents the vastness of Russian territory as problematic in that it failed to provide the kind of definition that nations of Western Europe were seen to possess. Scholars have typically considered Russian space in du alistic terms of capital/center versus provinces/periphery, but have overlooked the importance of a national frontier to perceptions of Russian identity. I will examine the relevance of theories of frontier and frontieriority to Russia and I will consider how notions of Russian space as both an infinite vastness and an enclosed domestic domain complicated the understanding of a Russian nation or homeland I will address the history of Russian settlement and expansion in the region, with special focus on m igration to the East in the period between the 1850s and the early 1900s, when there was a large influx of Russian settlers to the region I will also provide a reading of how early nineteenth century accounts of exploration in the Russian east construct a sense of a Russian frontier. The book will address the distinctions between Russian imperial expansion, colonization, and the settlement of the frontier. Alexander Etkind has argue d 5 Gibson 87 8 6 Overview drawn from Diment Heaven and Hell and Murav. 7 Inventing Siberia 2

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Kleespies 4 cent ury, meaning that the educated elite felt tasked with the burden of civilizing their own people, the provincial, rural masses. He asserts that Siberia largely lay beyond the reach of the self colonizing process a claim that raises provocative questions a bout the place of Siberia and, indeed, of the frontier itself in Russian consciousness. Russians did identify with the role the contiguous space of Sibe ria as part of the Russian homeland. As Vera Tolz shows, Russian space was not clearly delineated in imperial and national terms in the nineteenth century. R ather, ethnic tsarist empire was understood to be the Russian nation state 8 The perception of the empire as the nation state wr it large necessarily complicated any attempt to d ifferenti ate the nat ion or homeland from its frontier in geographical or other, more figurative, terms. I n Bou n ding the Russian Frontier I will offer close readings of the key texts that help to establish the notion of a Russian frontier, and that create a distinctly Russian discourse of Frigate Pallas far from the centers of power. I will also address the Soviet idealization of the space of the f Hydrocentral (1930 1) and Viktor Russian settler and other works that detail the Russian frontier experience in documentary terms. Scholarly Contribution The phenomenon of the frontier, its space and culture, and the discourse of frontieriority, has been closely and fruitfully examined in recent years in the American context, but has been comparative ly less considered in Russian scholarship. Russian scholars have addressed the issue role in the Russian imagination as a place of exile, source of untapped res ources, and as a potential site of renewal for Russian society (Diment and Slezkine, Bassin, et.al.). Yet the topos Sobol has introduced the idea of the unc anny nature of borderlands and frontiers, with specific reference to the Crimea. A full esthetics of the Russian literary frontier, however, remains to be written. Th e omission of the topos of the frontier is puzzling given its place in Russian history a nd its similarities to, and differences from, its American counterpart. While there are a number of important studies o f Siberia, this book will be the first to examine the importance of the frontier to Russian identity. By virtue of its interdisciplinar y focus and its sustained commitment to broader issues of cultural and national identity, Bounding the Russian Frontier will appeal to a scholarly audience well beyond Russian literary experts, providing important insights to cultural and intellectual hist orians of Russia and the United States as well as scholars interested in nation building and in the interrelationship between space and the nation more generally 8 Russia 16

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Kleespies 5 Select Bibliography Bassin, Mark. Slavic Review 50:1 (1991), 1 17. -American Historical Review 96:3 (1991), 763 794. -The Journal of Modern History 65:3 (1993) 473 511. -. Imperial Visions: Nationalist Imagination and Geographical Expansion in the Russian Far East, 1840 1865 Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999. Bennin gton, Geoffrey. "Frontiers: Of Literature and Philosophy." Culture Machine: Generating Research in Culture and Theory 2 (2000). December 5, 2011 < http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/305/290 >. -Paragraph: A Journal of Modern Critical Theory 17:3 (1994), 224 26. Billington, Ray Allen. Land of Savagery, Land of Promise: The European Image of the American Frontier in the Nineteenth Century W. W. Norton & Company: New York, 1981. Diment, Galya and Yuri Slezkine, eds. Between Heaven and Hell: The Myth of Siberia in Russian Culture Ab imperio: teoriia i tsovetskom prostranstve 1 (2002): 265 298. Between Heaven and Hell: The Myth of Siberia in Russian Culture Eds. Galya Diment and Yuri Slezkine. New 93. Hosking, Geoffrey. Russia: People and Empire Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1997. Between Heaven and Hell: The Myth of Siberia in Russian Cul ture Eds. Galya Diment and Yuri Slezkine. New York: St. 111. JEMH 11:1 2 (2007), 32 61. Slotkin, Richard. The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization 1800 1890 Atheneum: New York, 1985. Tolz, Vera. Russia London: Arnold; New York: Oxford UP, 2001. ce The History of Siberia: From Russian Conquest to Revolution Ed. Alan Wood. London & New York: Routledge, 1991. 117 39.



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Ingrid Kleespies Bounding the Russian Frontier: Mythologies of Space and Identity in Narratives of Russian National Expansion. Professional Development I am writing to apply for an academic year Senior Fellowship at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies in t he amount of $26,000 in order to undertake research for my second book manuscript, Bounding the Russian Frontier This project is in the early stages of development and would benefit greatly from the opportunity to pursue research full time and from the c hance to engage with Russian scholars from across the discipline s The manuscript would al so be ver y much strengthened by access to the Slavic collections at the Harvard University Libraries. I will wri te three core chapters over the course of the year a nd plan to complete the entire manuscript in 2014. A Davis Center Senior Fellowship would provide me with the opportunity to complete this project in a timely fashion. Project Description Overview In many ways comparable to the phenomenon of the Ameri can frontier, with its conflicting myths and realities, the Russian frontier played an important if under examined, role in nineteenth century Russian national consciousness. While not typically perceived as a frontier nation in the way that America has traditionally been understoo d, Russia in the mid nineteenth century did possess a frontier, or space of outward and potentially infinite national expansion to the east. In the Russian context, perceptions of a frontier and of national, rather than imper ial, expansion or what I term a discourse of frontieriority were complicated by the particularities of the Russian situation. The very notion of a Russian frontier provokes a number of compelling questions: How did national expansion differ from imper ial growth in Russian consciousness? Where, in fact, did the Russian nation, or homeland, end and the frontier begin? What differentiated a Russian frontier from its influential American counterpart of ? Could a nation that was defined mo re or less in terms of ethnicity, traditional culture, and territory in part bounded by the Ural Mountains transport or translate itself beyond these bounds into new space? Was Russian settlement of land to the east of the Urals an example of internal col form of Russian civilization, as many writers attempted to describe it at the time ? Unlike nineteenth century American culture, to a large degree defined by the v ery notions of movement, expansion, and growth, Russian identity was linked by most thinkers and writers of the time to the idea of an ethnically and territorially defined core even if this identity was itself problematic in many ways. Yet, there was a h istorical frontier that supported Russian migration and settlement and th e image of this frontier played a key role in Russian litera ry imaginings of national identity in the nineteenth century. A sense of frontieriority also plays a n important role in th e Socialist Realist treatment of Soviet space in the early twentieth century, and this book in part investigates the historical roots of Soviet frontier discourse in the nineteenth century literary tradition It also examines the ways in which the discour se of nineteenth century Russian frontieriority both drew from and distinguished itself from the contemporary paradigm of American expansion.

PAGE 2

Kleespies 2 The notion of a Russian frontier co exists with, and in many cases, coincides with, a variety of conceptions of Ru ssian space. These range from a concern with Russian vastness and as, alternately, a gold mine, a natural paradise, and a prison. The Russian frontier, in br oad terms, overlaps with the territory of Siberia, the space bounded by the Ural mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and, to the north and south, the Arctic Ocean and the borders with China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan. This vast space is not undifferentiated, yet as a whole, it comprised a uniquely large and rich frontier territory during the four centuries of Russian exploration and conquest of the region. Tales of discovery and observation throughout this period played an important part in establishing Siberia as a frontier in the Russian imagination. The image of a frontier brings to mind certain key associations: confrontation between civilization and nature, the process of history in the making, the potentially infinite expansion of t (e.g. Russian outposts in California and Alaska), and social and political egalitarianism. 1 An important further element of the aesthetics of frontierority is its uncanniness, or the co existence of the familiar and the unfamiliar, as socio cultural ele into the wilderness necessarily changes both, and raises the question as to whether the frontier represents the beginning of a new history or t he development of an extant national narrative. This is a particularly troublesome question in the Russian context, where issues of national identity Alexander Herzen argues in (1858)? Or was the reality of the frontier something quite different, as Ivan Goncharov takes pains to show in Frigate Pa llas (1858) when standing social problems, even as he pays lip service to a Comparisons between Siberia and America were frequent from the late eighteenth century on and th e image of a Russian frontier with the corresponding implication of a more or less politically free society existing in a state of nature was a seductive and popular one. As historian Mark Bassin has noted, Russians did conceive of Siberia very much i n terms of an American style frontier. 2 The popular fashioning of Siberia, and ultimately, Russia itself, in America's image came to a high point in the latter half of the 1850s, at the time that Goncharov was writing his description of an overland journe y across Siberia and Sergei Aksakov was publishing his memoirs of a settler childhood at the borderlands of the frontier Its promise of freedom was such that Russian authorities were hesitant to develop the region for fear of revolt or secession. They w ere even concerned about a possible Siberian union with America. 3 Yet, as scholars such as Vera Tolz have shown, Siberia was frequently cast in idealized terms as part of Russia proper. 4 It was also meant to serve as a wealth producing extension of Russi a itself. The absence of serfdom lent particular strength to the idea of Siberia as a frontier, or as a new and egalitarian national space. Regarded positively by most observers, the lack of the deeply ingrained, traditional Russian social practice w as frequently noted by travelers to the region. Life in the far eastern stretches of the empire seemed to represent a Russian society in 1 See Bennington, "Frontier," 224 26. 2 3 Bassin, "I nventing Siberia," 775. 4 Russia, 163 4.

PAGE 3

Kleespies 3 5 A loosening of clas s strictures and corresponding increase in socio economic mobility were In addition to these more general cultural perceptions, images of the Russian frontier and the discourse of frontierority (infini te space, social renewal, sociopolitical equality) began to pla y a significant role in canonical nineteenth century Russian literature. Even alongside accounts of House of the Dead Frigate Palla s presented Siberia in a more positive light as a frontier rather than as a wilderness or prison. Other notable works include: Sergei Family Chronicle (1856) and Childhood Years of Bagrov the Grandson (1856) My Past and Thoughts Siberian narod in the 1870s From (1890), and Even earlier, Russian writers and men of letters, such as Nikolai Polevoi (a native Russian Siberian), made the far Russian eas Moskovskii telegraf along with that of the lesser known writers Ivan Kalashnikov and Nikolai Shchukin, helped to popularize an image of Siberia as a natural paradise that stood in stark 6 Moreover, several popular non fiction accounts of the history of the Russian conquest of the region appeared in the 1830s and 40s. These accounts, along with depictions of the region by contemporary travelers and scholars such as N. S. Shukin A Trip to Yakutsk (1830) G. Gegenstrom Sketc hes of Siberia (1830) and Baron Journey along the Northern Coastline of Siberia and the Arctic Ocean from 1820 24 (1842) glorified the expanding Russian presence in Siberia, and, on occasion even compar ed it to the Spanish exploration of the N ew World 7 In this book, I will consider the phenomenon of the Russian frontier and its role in national consciousness from a number of angles. I will argue for its broader relevance to a Russian literary discourse of space and identity that dates to th e early nineteenth century and that represents the vastness of Russian territory as problematic in that it failed to provide the kind of definition that nations of Western Europe were seen to possess. Scholars have typically considered Russian space in du alistic terms of capital/center versus provinces/periphery, but have overlooked the importance of a national frontier to perceptions of Russian identity. I will examine the relevance of theories of frontier and frontieriority to Russia and I will consider how notions of Russian space as both an infinite vastness and an enclosed domestic domain complicated the understanding of a Russian nation or homeland I will address the history of Russian settlement and expansion in the region, with special focus on m igration to the East in the period between the 1850s and the early 1900s, when there was a large influx of Russian settlers to the region I will also provide a reading of how early nineteenth century accounts of exploration in the Russian east construct a sense of a Russian frontier. The book will address the distinctions between Russian imperial expansion, colonization, and the settlement of the frontier. Alexander Etkind has argue d 5 Gibson 87 8 6 Overview drawn from Diment Heaven and Hell and Murav. 7 Inventing Siberia 2

PAGE 4

Kleespies 4 cent ury, meaning that the educated elite felt tasked with the burden of civilizing their own people, the provincial, rural masses. He asserts that Siberia largely lay beyond the reach of the self colonizing process a claim that raises provocative questions a bout the place of Siberia and, indeed, of the frontier itself in Russian consciousness. Russians did identify with the role the contiguous space of Sibe ria as part of the Russian homeland. As Vera Tolz shows, Russian space was not clearly delineated in imperial and national terms in the nineteenth century. R ather, ethnic tsarist empire was understood to be the Russian nation state 8 The perception of the empire as the nation state wr it large necessarily complicated any attempt to d ifferenti ate the nat ion or homeland from its frontier in geographical or other, more figurative, terms. I n Bou n ding the Russian Frontier I will offer close readings of the key texts that help to establish the notion of a Russian frontier, and that create a distinctly Russian discourse of Frigate Pallas far from the centers of power. I will also address the Soviet idealization of the space of the f Hydrocentral (1930 1) and Viktor Russian settler and other works that detail the Russian frontier experience in documentary terms. Scholarly Contribution The phenomenon of the frontier, its space and culture, and the discourse of frontieriority, has been closely and fruitfully examined in recent years in the American context, but has been comparative ly less considered in Russian scholarship. Russian scholars have addressed the issue role in the Russian imagination as a place of exile, source of untapped res ources, and as a potential site of renewal for Russian society (Diment and Slezkine, Bassin, et.al.). Yet the topos Sobol has introduced the idea of the unc anny nature of borderlands and frontiers, with specific reference to the Crimea. A full esthetics of the Russian literary frontier, however, remains to be written. Th e omission of the topos of the frontier is puzzling given its place in Russian history a nd its similarities to, and differences from, its American counterpart. While there are a number of important studies o f Siberia, this book will be the first to examine the importance of the frontier to Russian identity. By virtue of its interdisciplinar y focus and its sustained commitment to broader issues of cultural and national identity, Bounding the Russian Frontier will appeal to a scholarly audience well beyond Russian literary experts, providing important insights to cultural and intellectual hist orians of Russia and the United States as well as scholars interested in nation building and in the interrelationship between space and the nation more generally 8 Russia 16

PAGE 5

Kleespies 5 Select Bibliography Bassin, Mark. Slavic Review 50:1 (1991), 1 17. -American Historical Review 96:3 (1991), 763 794. -The Journal of Modern History 65:3 (1993) 473 511. -. Imperial Visions: Nationalist Imagination and Geographical Expansion in the Russian Far East, 1840 1865 Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999. Bennin gton, Geoffrey. "Frontiers: Of Literature and Philosophy." Culture Machine: Generating Research in Culture and Theory 2 (2000). December 5, 2011 < http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/305/290 >. -Paragraph: A Journal of Modern Critical Theory 17:3 (1994), 224 26. Billington, Ray Allen. Land of Savagery, Land of Promise: The European Image of the American Frontier in the Nineteenth Century W. W. Norton & Company: New York, 1981. Diment, Galya and Yuri Slezkine, eds. Between Heaven and Hell: The Myth of Siberia in Russian Culture Ab imperio: teoriia i tsovetskom prostranstve 1 (2002): 265 298. Between Heaven and Hell: The Myth of Siberia in Russian Culture Eds. Galya Diment and Yuri Slezkine. New 93. Hosking, Geoffrey. Russia: People and Empire Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1997. Between Heaven and Hell: The Myth of Siberia in Russian Cul ture Eds. Galya Diment and Yuri Slezkine. New York: St. 111. JEMH 11:1 2 (2007), 32 61. Slotkin, Richard. The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization 1800 1890 Atheneum: New York, 1985. Tolz, Vera. Russia London: Arnold; New York: Oxford UP, 2001. ce The History of Siberia: From Russian Conquest to Revolution Ed. Alan Wood. London & New York: Routledge, 1991. 117 39.