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Sense of Place lecture series: "The Public Graphosphere"

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In the ancient city, the stones spoke. Public spaces were spaces of visible words. In the Middle Ages, however, words were largely removed from the public gaze except in enclosed spaces, such as churches. This lecture considers how the verbal void became filled in the transition to modernity. When and why did what kinds of visible words infiltrate public spaces in Russia? What have they meant, not just as the bearers of particular verbal messages, but as reflections of, and as contributors to, a changing sense of public space? To what extent was the process indigenous, and to what extent was it prompted by contacts with Western Europe? The emergence of the Russian public ‘graphosphere’ took several centuries, and involved several ‘false starts’. In it can be traced the shifting and sometimes competing claims to spatial presence and authority of the Church, the State, commerce, and, eventually, private individuals. The lecture explores and illustrates material ranging from statues to shop-signs, from posters to triumphal arches. The focus of attention is mainly, though not exclusively, on Moscow and St Petersburg.

About the Speaker: Simon Franklin is Professor of Slavonic Studies in the University of Cambridge. He has published extensively on the history and culture of early Rus, and also on aspects of Russian culture of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Books include Sermons and Rhetoric of Kievan Rus’ (1991); The Emergence of Rus c. 750-1200 (with Jonathan Shepard, 1996); Writing, Society and Culture in Early Rus (2002); and National Identity in Russian Culture: an Introduction (co-edited, with Emma Widdis, 2004). This lecture reflects aspects of his current research on the social and cultural history of technologies of the word in Russia up to the mid-19th century.

This talk is part of the Slavonic Studies series.

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