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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 Six: Revisions of Sentimentalist Gender Concepts: Anna Naumova


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Chapter Six Revisions of Sentimentalist Gender Concepts: Anna Naumova

This chapter explores the metaphors which Sentimentalism’s connotation of poetry with the feminine offered a woman author in order to justify her activity as a writer. The focus is on the literary and socio-political activity of Anna Naumova (c. 1787–1862), a woman writer who lived near Kazan, a city some seven-hundred kilometres east of Moscow, and who witnessed many of the city’s socio-political events. My analysis of her work will argue that by endorsing Sentimentalism’s conception of women as bearers of virtue, for example by referring to components of an idyllic landscape, she was able to enter the public sphere of authorship without overtly conflicting with gender expectations. I will further suggest that the guise of the morally superior being enabled her to speak out against various Sentimentalist clichés about women, such as the image and function of the country maiden in the pastoral, or the notion that women could not overcome emotional grief. Rather than embodying the harmonious and vulnerable female demanded by Sentimentalist discourse, many of Naumova’s female literary characters are endowed with an authority which allows them to be in charge of their lives. This revision of Sentimentalism’s characterisation of women manifests itself particularly strongly in Naumova’s portrayal of Fate as an outspoken character, and in her advice to women to act on the basis of rational thinking rather than emotional impulses.

Biographical background

Naumova grew up...

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