Women Writers in Russian Literature

Women Writers in Russian Literature

Women Writers in Russian Literature

Women Writers in Russian Literature


..."For all readers interested in the fabric of women's literature and women in a literary society, this book represents the highest achievement to date in Russian studies." Choice


This book examines the often-ignored or forgotten contributions that women writers have made to Russian literature. While scholars of other literatures have been recovering women's contributions since the women's movement of the 1970s, in Russian literature we have only recently begun the process. Women writers (except for a few token poets such as Zinaida Gippius, Anna Akhmatova, and Marina Tsvetaeva) still have not become part of the literary canon--that collection of authors and works considered central to the understanding of Russian literature as reflected in teaching and scholarship. We hope this book will add to the recovery effort now under way.

Over the last twenty-five years, feminist scholars working in other literatures have developed an impressive body of feminist scholarship and theory. We in Russian literature, as relative newcomers to the recovery of women writers, can learn a great deal from this work.

For example, the rediscovery of Russian women writers raises many of the same basic questions already addressed by feminist scholars in relation to their own literatures: Why have we never heard of these women writers before? Are they good writers? Can we speak of a separate women's literary tradition?

The scholar Nina Baym, in discussing American women writers suggests three possible reasons for their obscurity, reasons that apply equally well to Russian writers: Women writers made real contributions which biased critics did not recognize; social conditions hindered them; or literary theories created by later critics retroactively eliminated them. (The last certainly applies to socialist realism.)

In asking why we have never heard of these writers, feminist scholars have also had to consider the more traditional answer to the question: These writers' work was not worth preserving as part of the literary canon. Recently, however, some scholars have begun to challenge the idea that canons embody universal, ahistoric values, passed down intact from generation to generation. Rather, they . . .

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