A History of Women's Writing in Russia

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

9
Realist prose writers, 1881–1929
ROSALIND MARSH

By the end of the nineteenth century, the number of women prose writers in Russia had increased to an unprecedented level. The critic V. Chuiko stated in 1889, “There have never been so many women in Russian literature as now. A woman writer with a reputation, a woman who translates or writes for a newspaper is far from being a rare phenomenon in Russian society. ” 1 By 1899 the critic A. Skabichevskii further emphasized the significant increase in the number of women writing prose, claiming that Russia was being “inundated” by women's prose fiction, and that almost as many female prose writers as male were being published in the “thick journals. ” 2

This chapter can deal with only a small number of the numerous texts by women realist prose writers who rose to prominence during the period 1889–1929. Although some reference will be made to writers' differing stylistic techniques, the main focus will be on the themes of women's prose that (with the possible exception of works by accomplished stylists such as Ol'nem and Teffi) constitute its main interest and originality. “Realist” and “feminist” writing will be treated separately, although it is difficult to draw any clear distinction between them, since women realists, while providing general insights into contemporary society, are often particularly successful at depicting female characters and raising issues of interest to women. For the purposes of this essay, “feminist” texts will be defined as writings by women writers which “show, in content or form or both, a critical awareness of women's role and status in society, ” 3 and sometimes demonstrate women attaining a measure of success in achieving their goals.

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