Finding the Middle Ground: Krestovskii, Tur, and the Power of Ambivalence in Nineteenth-Century Russian Women's Prose

Finding the Middle Ground: Krestovskii, Tur, and the Power of Ambivalence in Nineteenth-Century Russian Women's Prose

Finding the Middle Ground: Krestovskii, Tur, and the Power of Ambivalence in Nineteenth-Century Russian Women's Prose

Finding the Middle Ground: Krestovskii, Tur, and the Power of Ambivalence in Nineteenth-Century Russian Women's Prose

Synopsis

An examination of two influential women writers in the mid-nineteenth century which challenges many common assumptions about the development of the Russian literary tradition

Excerpt

In studying nineteenth-century women authors, one gains new respect for the elusiveness of facts. Even data that is usually thought of as basic (for example, birth and death dates, occupations of children, where authors lived, and so on) can be almost impossible to locate. I say this without regret: this detective work can be thrilling. Yet I want to address the topic directly for two reasons: first, relatively little archival work on Russian women authors has been published, and so this problem has not been discussed; and second, the difficulty in locating information influenced the choices I made in writing this book.

For nineteenth-century female authors, there are no editions of “collected works” (polnoe sobranie sochinenii) in which the major facts and debates are given and in which one can gain leads as to which archives one may want to explore. Even in the rare instance that a woman author’s works were collected, as in the case of Krestovskii, there are only minimal notes and none of the scholarly apparatus that accompanies the works of authors like Dostoevsky, Leskov, Turgenev, or Mel’nikov-Pecherskii. Much of the basic information on female writers has not been preserved at all, or has been preserved in odd pockets and corners that—though I hate to admit it—one comes upon as much through chance (and maybe diligence) as through conscious scholarly process.

The transmission of the Khvoshchinskie archive, which contained the papers of V. Krestovskii (the pseudonym of Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia), provides a good example of the difficulties one can encounter in researching female authors. While large portions of these papers have been preserved at major archives such as RGALI, the Manuscript Division of the Saltykov-Shchedrin Library, and the local Riazan’ archives, the materials I found most valuable to work with had a different fate.

When I was in Riazan’, an archivist, knowing that I was working on the Khvoshchinskaia sisters, introduced me to a genealogist, Evgenii Nikolaevich . . .

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