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Middle Ages without borders: a conversation on medievalism

Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri
Pierre Savy
Lila Yawn

b) The Romantic Middle Ages. Canada, Denmark, Russia

3) Western European medieval chivalry in nineteenth-century Russia: Alexander Pushkin on the decline of chivalry

Stephanie Richards

Texte intégral

1When Russia’s greatest poet, Alexander Pushkin, began asking questions about how Russia had ended up where it was in the 1830s, he donned the hat of historian and went looking for answers in the socio-historical turning points that defined Western culture. This paper discusses one of these threshold moments that captured Pushkin’s imagination: the end of the European Middle Ages. By tracing particular influences, such as Walter Scott’s essay on chivalry, Henry Hallam’s history of Europe, and Chateaubriand’s historical writings on chivalry, the paper demonstrates how several creative texts by Pushkin, which are set in medieval Europe, carry historical meaning. They speak to Pushkin’s thinking on the transition from the medieval era to the early modern period. After establishing this creative context for Pushkin’s historical thinking, the paper focuses particularly on an unfinished dramatic piece, referred to as “Scenes from the Time of Chivalry,” and on the concept of aberrant knighthood as a symbol of decline. In the end, we see how all of Pushkin’s knights are, in fact, not true knights at all. Rather, they are empty shells of an ideal who, through their inversions of chivalric principles, represent the death of the institution.


2Pushkin, Scenes


John Cabot University

© Publications de l’École française de Rome, 2021

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