A History of Women's Writing in Russia

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

3
The inexperienced muse: Russian
women and poetry in the first half
of the nineteenth century
JUDITH VOWLES

When Anna Bunina (1774–1829), the first major Russian woman poet of the nineteenth century and one of the first Russian women to sustain a literary career, entitled her first collection of poetry Neopytnaia muza (The Inexperienced Muse, 1809–1812), she marked not only her own inexperience as a poet but the broader absence of women from the ranks of Russian poets. Only a generation later the situation had changed dramatically. By 1845 the young religious poet Elisaveta Shakhova (1822–1899) could style herself the “youngest sister of sisters who have gone before” (“K zhenshchinam-poetam” [“To WomenPoets”]), and could have named a score of women writing poetry. Had she attempted a female genealogy she might have named among her older “sisters” not only Bunina, but Bunina's peers, the Sentimentalist writers Mar'ia Pospelova (1780–1805), Anna Volkova (1781–1834), and Liubov' Krichevskaia (d. after 1841), or the scholarly poet and classicist Ekaterina Kul'man (1808–1825). 1 Although the names of many women who inspired poets in the 1820s are remembered, only a few women are known to have written poetry themselves, among them Princess Zinaida Volkonskaia (1789–1862), Anna Gotovtseva (1799–1871), Elizaveta Timasheva (1798–1881), and Mariia Lisitsyna (d. 1842?). From the 1830s onward, however, women published poetry in sufficient numbers to attract critical attention. Shakhova's genealogy would have continued with the leading women poets of her time, Evdokiia Rostopchina (1811–1858) and Karolina Pavlova (1807–1893), less well-known poets like Aleksandra Fuks (1805–1853), Ol'ga Kriukova (1815/17–1885), Avdot'ia Glinka (1795–1863), and Varvara Annenkova (1795–1866), as well as a few women of non-gentry birth, including Nadezhda Teplova (1814–1848) of the Moscow merchant class, and Domna Anisimova (1812–after 1868), the daughter of a village

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