A History of Women's Writing in Russia

By Adele Marie Barker; Jehanne M. Gheith | Go to book overview

Introduction
ADELE MARIE BARKER AND JEHANNE M GHEITH

What we know does not satisfy us. What we know constantly reveals itself as partial. What we know, generation by generation, is discarded into new knowings which in their turn slowly cease to interest us… The facts cut me off. The clean boxes of history, geography, science, art. What is the separateness of things when the current that flows each to each is live? It is the livingness I want.

JEANETTE WINTERSON, Gut Symmetries (82–3)

In presenting the history of women's writing in Russia from its beginnings to the present day, we have been guided by the desire to incorporate the “livingness” of which Jeanette Winterson speaks. To capture that essential living quality of the women writers presented in this volume, the eras in which they lived, the literary lives they led, and the places they occupied within a tradition long dominated by men is the task we have set before ourselves in this volume. Women's literary endeavors have, with few exceptions, occupied obscure, indeed often unseen places in the history of Russian literature. As we set about the process of reintegrating women writers into the history of Russian literature, we wanted to recover lost literary lives, address factual gaps in our knowledge, and rethink the contexts within which women's writing has been produced. Our journey has led us to examine questions of gender and genre, to reconsider traditional periodization and classifications of literary versus non literary, high versus low, public versus private, and to query the relationship between women's literary productivity and mainstream Russian literature.

The essays that follow are in an important sense the product of many hands over many years. Our approaches and insights have benefited immeasurably from the pioneering work of Slavic feminist scholars such as Barbara Heldt, Catriona Kelly, and Mary Zirin, and from feminist

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