Reinventing Romantic Poetry: Russian Women Poets of the Mid-Nineteenth Century

By Olson, Gust | Canadian Slavonic Papers, September-December 2006 | Go to article overview

Reinventing Romantic Poetry: Russian Women Poets of the Mid-Nineteenth Century


Olson, Gust, Canadian Slavonic Papers


Diana Greene. Reinventing Romantic Poetry: Russian Women Poets of the MidNineteenth Century. Madison, Wl: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2004. xi, 306 pp. Appendix. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $29.95, paper.

Where are the women poets in the canon of Russian Romanticism? They were certainly writing and some of them publishing. A few, like Evdokiia Rostopchina and Karolina Pavlova, have been reinstated, but their works and lives are more likely to be found in anthologies or histories of Russian women's literature. What led to their virtual disappearance from the nineteenth-century canon is the subject of Diana Greene's multifaceted Reinventing Russian Poetry: Russian Women Poets of the Mid-Nineteenth Century.

Greene's interest is not limited to what excluded these women poets-she studies the works of fourteen born between 1799 and 1824-but what a gender-neutral canon might look like. For it is a gender-specific notion of canon that she sees behind the exclusion of these poets and, indeed, behind the notion of Romantic poetry itself. Thus her title: these women poets "had to transform male-defined traditions, genres, and themes in order to be able to address women's experiences or even Io represent themselves as poets" (p. 4).

Greene begins by investigating ways in which Romantic poetry was a male-defined exercise. Referring to a definition of Welleck's, she underscores the gender-specificity of his three underlying elements common to all national Romantic poetry. She writes: "Men poets... personified imagination as a female muse, often depicting her as a sexual partner. ... Nature-troped as silent, feminine, mother. Other-served as an object of interpretation or assimilation by the man poet. The third element, a poetic style for which symbol and myth are central, meant in the case of several influential Romantic poets androcentric or even misogynist myths" (pp. 4-5).

Other considerations Greene advances are also international: the "domestic ideology" that saw a woman's place in the home; weaker educational opportunities for women than for men; physical identities that kept them tied to home and child-bearing and -raising; different experiences that led to different aesthetics and artistic concerns. All these Greene finds her Russian women poets had in common with their English and American counterparts. It is part of the richness of Greene's study that she refers to colleagues in other national literatures and theorists of canon and reception.

"Social Concerns" is the title Greene gives to her first chapter, in which she investigates the "literary social capital" that women poets had so much less of than the canonical poets. The woman poets, even the wealthy, were economically tied to their husbands, if married; and marriage was often the only way not to remain dependent on relatives. Divorce was impossible under abusive situations; separation could mean poverty. Family life revolved around the home and children, leaving little time for writing. Moreover, poetry had come to be seen as a male prerogative by the 1840s. "Now women writers were depicted [in the Russian periodic press] not only as ludicrously incompetent but also as destroyers of their families, murderers of their children, women 'asking' to be raped, unattractive bores, or sexual objects..." (p. 25). One way women poets could accommodate these prejudices was found in the attitude of the "poetess" (evolving in England between 1790 and 1830 and soon migrating to Russia), where the cultural definition of women poets gradually shifted to incorporate the idea of "women's sphere." Respectability was guaranteed if the poetess stuck to nurturing and left the prophetic visions to the men. "In effect," Greene summarizes, "women poets had to choose between being women and being poets" (p. 27).

The response to this dilemma was two-fold. Poets like Evdokiia Rostopchina might conform to this notion, depicting women as targets of mockery, or, like lulliia Zhadovskaia and Praskov'ia Bakunina, appealed to women (not men) to repent of their worldliness.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Reinventing Romantic Poetry: Russian Women Poets of the Mid-Nineteenth Century
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.