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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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Introduction

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The present study examines the ways in which Russian women writers responded to Sentimentalist literary conventions during the first two decades of the 19th century, in particular to the notion that women have an inherent affinity with nature, which literary works of the time often presented as an earthly paradise. The study considers particular features in writings by several 18th- and early-19th-century Russian women authors including Anna Bunina, Alexandra Khvostova, Anna Volkova, Anna Labzina, Mariia Sushkova, Mariia and Elizaveta Moskvina, Ekaterina Ursusova, Alexandra Murzina, Anna Turchaninova and some of their anonymous colleagues. Particular features in works by non-Russian female writers including Isabella Lickbarrow, Charlotte Smith and, especially, Antoinette du Ligier de La Garde Deshoulières (Mme Deshoulières) also come under scrutiny. Particular attention is paid to works by three women authors who have so far received scant scholarly attention: Mariia Pospelova (1780/1783/1784–1805), Mariia Bolotnikova (dates unknown; published 1817), and Anna Naumova (c. 1787–1862). A chapter has been dedicated to each of them.

To contextualise Russian women’s writing of the period, I have compared specific aspects with features in works by contemporary male Russian writers, primarily Nikolai Karamzin, but also Iakov Kniazhnin, Mikhail Popov, Ivan Khemnitser, Denis Fonvizin, Nikolai L´vov, Vasilii Zhukovskii, Andrei Bolotov, Mikhail Kherasov, Ivan Dmitriev, Alexander Radishchev, Alexander Sumarokov, Vasilii Trediakovskii, Mikhail Lomonosov, and Gavrila Derzhavin. Alongside Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose writings greatly influenced Russian Sentimentalism, other non-Russian male authors relevant to my study include Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, François Ren...

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