WiP: Harsha Ram on The Life of Artemy of Ararat

CRRC, ARISC and American Councils are pleased to announce the 2nd talk of the Spring 2023 Tbilisi Works-in-Progress series!

This week’s WiP session will take place in hybrid format in-person at CRRC Georgia and virtually via this Zoom link: https://us06web.zoom.us/…/tZcpde6rqjoiE93sdx…

“The Picaresque as Historical Allegory, or the Adventures of an Armenian Trickster: The Life of Artemy of Ararat”

By Harsha Ram, UC Berkeley and ARISC Fellow

Date: 15 February 2023, 18:30 Tbilisi time

The son of a stonemason, Artemy of Ararat (1774-?) owed his upward mobility to a clerical education and a seemingly boundless zeal for self-improvement which propelled him from place to place and encounter to encounter. Coming of age at a time when his native Armenia had been reduced to a cluster of Ottoman provinces and vassal khanates subservient to Iran, Araratyan witnessed the South Caucasus region pass from Persian into Russian hands. Today Araratyan is chiefly remembered for his quasi-autobiographical *Zhizn’ Artemiia Araratskogo urozhentsa seleniia Vagarshapat bliz gory Ararata i prikliucheniia, sluchivshiesia s nim ot mladenchestva do sovershennykh let* (“The Life of Artemy of Ararat, Native Son of the Hamlet of Vagharshapat near Mount Ararat and the Adventures which befell him from his Infancy to his Coming of Age”), which first appeared in St. Petersburg in 1813 in a Russian translation authored by Araratyan himself. A lively fusion of personal experience, historical detail, and exuberant fantasy, the book elicited considerable interest on publication, its immediate success no doubt owing to keen public interest in the vicissitudes of the Fourth Russo-Persian War, culminating in the Treaty of Gulistan of the same year, by which Iran was compelled to cede much of the South Caucasus to Russian control. Over the course of the nineteenth century the book was hailed as a valuable historical and ethnographic source for the South Caucasus region, only to be denounced in a book-length tract of the late imperial era as a pseudo-historical forgery penned by a charlatan. Only the second autobiography to be penned by an Armenian, the book is today remembered chiefly as a curiosity. To discuss its poetics, its politics, its rendering of Armenianness and imperial citizenship, is the goal of this paper.

Harsha Ram is Associate Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at UC Berkeley. His first book, The Imperial Sublime (2003) addressed the relationship between poetic genre, aesthetic theory, territorial space and political power in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Russian literature. His recent publications chiefly concern Russian-Georgian, Russian-French and Russian-Italian literary relations in the context of theories of world literature and comparative modernities. His current book-project, The Geopoetics of Sovereignty. Literatures of the Russian-Georgian Encounter, seeks to provide a historical account of cultural relations between Georgian and Russian writers and intellectuals over the course of the eighteenth- and early nineteenth centuries, focusing on how the Georgia and the Caucasus region as a whole were mapped geopolitically as a contested territory and geopoetically as a space of natural and ethnolinguistic diversity.

Works-in-Progress is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place office of CRRC at Liziko Kavtaradze St. 1 and online. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.In observation of the spirit of the Chatham House Rule, the talks will not be recorded and we courteously request that the other participants refrain from recording and/or distributing recordings as well. The opinions expressed in WiP talks are those of the speakers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC, ARISC or of American Councils.