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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 Four: The Woman Writer as Interpreter of Creation: Mariia Pospelova


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Chapter Four The Woman Writer as Interpreter of Creation: Mariia Pospelova

This chapter explores the possibilities Sentimentalist discourse could offer to a woman writer interested in exploiting religion and virtue for her self-image as an author. My examination suggests that Mariia Pospelova (1780, 1783, or 1784–1805) engages with the concept of nature as an earthly paradise, justifying her writerly activity by references to the equation of woman with nature, innate goodness, and virtuousness. My analysis of reviews on Pospelova will reveal that the popularity in Sentimentalist culture of woman’s image as a pious virgin and innocent country maiden transferred to the perception of the author and, in Pospelova’s case, to descriptions of her early death in particular. In her writings Pospelova found ways of revising the role ascribed to women in the pastoral. While the traditional pastoral instrumentalises woman as a symbol of harmony and as the mute object of male adoration, Pospelova lends a voice and authority to the female author-character by employing pastoral imagery in her philosophical and religious reflections. Hers is an example of a Sentimentalist woman author who achieved this without fundamentally challenging the Sentimentalist conceptualisation of women.

Pospelova’s life and work

Pospelova was born at some time between 1780 and 1784, a few years before the French Revolution. The various implications of the fact that the exact year of her birth is unknown will be discussed below. She published two collections of poems and philosophical...

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