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Disrupted Idylls

Nature, Equality, and the Feminine in Sentimentalist Russian Women’s Writing (Mariia Pospelova, Mariia Bolotnikova, and Anna Naumova) – With translations by Emily Lygo


Ursula Stohler

The study provides a close analysis of literary works by women in late-18th- and early-19th-century Russia, with a focus on Anna Naumova, Mariia Pospelova, and Mariia Bolotnikova. Political, social and feminist theories are applied to examine restrictions imposed on women. Women authors in particular were fettered by a culture of feminisation strongly influenced by the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. As Sentimentalism and its aesthetics began to give way to Romantic ideals, some provincial Russian women writers saw an opportunity to claim social equality, and to challenge traditional concepts of authorship and a view of women as mute and passive.
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Chapter Two: Literary Impacts of Sentimentalist Gender Conceptions in Russia


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Chapter Two Literary Impacts of Sentimentalist Gender Conceptions in Russia

This chapter addresses literary implications of Sentimentalism’s socio-political concepts. It suggests that literature and its ability to transfer issues from the domestic sphere to the public world was potentially able to bridge the gap between the sexes’ separate spheres of existence. Salons and literary circles in particular played the role of intermediary between the two spheres of activity, since they were a place of cultural exchange for both sexes, and associated with both the public and the private spheres. The chapter further considers representations of Fate in Russian Romantic literature, which began to emerge in the first two decades of the 19th century.

The feminisation of literary culture

In contrast to Classicist aesthetics, Sentimentalist discourse was descriptive rather than normative, thus broadening the horizon to groups of society previously ignored by the ruling class. One of the consequences was the appearance of the character of the serf and the rise of the ‘woman question’ in many literary works. Another effect was the high regard in which femininity was held in Sentimentalism, becoming a cultural standard: as scholars have shown, style, language, and genre were adapted to what male writers thought to be pleasing to and customary among women. A smooth type of diction replaced the complicated syntactic structures influenced by Church Slavonic; words borrowed from French began to crop up in Russian texts; and novels and minor poetic genres, such as...

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