Dashkova's Grand Tour

November 1, 2006 (Wednesday) / 5:00 pm6:30 pm

Franklin Hall, American Philosophical Society, 427 Chestnut Street

Dashkova's Grand Tour

The Travel Writing of a Russian Princess

Sara Dickinson

Professor of Russian Studies, University of Genoa

Russian princess and friend of Empress Catherine the Great, Ekaterina Dashkova was legendary. She helped depose a czar, was a key figure of the Russian Enlightenment, and was the first woman to head the prestigious Russian Academy of Sciences and to join, at Benjamin Franklin’s invitation, the American Philosophical Society. She also was one of the privileged few able to afford the elite form of leisured travel known as the ‘grand tour.’ Professor Dickinson explores Dashkova’s remarkable travelogues and memoirs to discover the people, ideas, and fashions of Enlightenment culture.

Princess Ekaterina Dashkova made two long tours in Western Europe before becoming Director of the Russian Academy of Science and of the Academy of the Russian Language. She spent nearly a decade abroad, encountering various luminaries of the day, such as Benjamin Franklin. She was one of the first Russians—either male or female—to describe her travels in the form of a literary account.

In two brief travelogues and the later memoirs (Mon histoire), Dashkova outlines various aspects of her encounter with the persons, places, ideas, and aesthetic fashions of Enlightenment culture. These texts are fascinating records that document both the travel experience of one of 18th-century Russia's most elite and educated women and the increasingly fashionable practice of the Western European grand tour.

Dashkova's travelogues are also significant as early examples of the Russian adaptation of Western literary forms: the same attraction for Enlightenment culture that shaped her actual itineraries also structured her written record of them.

In this talk, Prof. Dickinson will examine the Princess Dashkova as both traveler and travel writer, exploring her experience of touring abroad through the stylized accounts that she authored. What was her role in the development of Russian culture? And, how significant were her texts as examples of "women’s writing” of the day?

Before the lecture, join us for a curated tour of
The Princess & the Patriot: Katerina Dashkova, Benjamin Franklin, and the Age of Enlightenment
Museum of the American Philosophical Society (exhibition runs through Dec. 31, 2006)
3:30pm, 104 S. 5th Street

APS Museum Director and Curator Sue Ann Prince will lead a specially arranged tour of holdings on exhibit relating to Dashkova and Franklin: portraits, court jewelry, porcelain, memoirs, maps, and more. Among the documents on display are the first dictionary of the Russian language that Dashkova edited and published, music she wrote, and her extended correspondence with Franklin.