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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

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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 Five: Criticism of Sentimentalist Conventions: Mariia Bolotnikova

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Chapter Five Criticism of Sentimentalist Conventions: Mariia Bolotnikova

This chapter examines the strategies adopted by a provincial Sentimentalist woman author to justify her writerly activity, with a particular focus on Mariia Bolotnikova (dates of birth and death unknown), whose collection was first published in 1817 and has never been republished. In creating her self-image as a woman poet, she made use of Sentimentalism’s elevated appreciation of nature. Also, conforming to the display of modesty expected of a woman writer, she did refer to a male mentor. Bolotnikova’s work nevertheless challenges the notion of woman as a superior yet naive being who is incapable of learning her lessons. Her writings not only criticise certain aspects of Sentimentalist ‘feminisation’ of culture, they also challenge the Sentimentalist association of subordination with woman and nature, and provide evidence of a cultural discourse which included debates about the human rights of both serfs and, crucially, women as well.

Bolotnikova’s life, work, and publication strategies

Very little biographical information is available on this author.1 One source is Ivan Dolgorukii (1764–1832), provincial governor and himself author of some poems and comedies, who kept a social diary naming people who mattered to him. According to his diary, Bolotnikova was a married gentlewoman resident in the Orel region, some one hundred kilometres south of Moscow.2 In 1817 she published a collection of poems, Derevenskaia lira, ili chasy uedineniia (The Country ← 139 | 140 → Lyre, or Hours of Solitude).3 While...

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