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Finding the Middle Ground

Krestovskii, Tur, and the Power of Ambivalence in Nineteenth Century Russian Women's Prose

Gheith, Jehanne

Publication Year: 2004

Though among the most prominent writers in Russia in the mid nineteenth century, Evgeniia Tur (1815 92) and V. Krestovskii (1820? 89) are now little known. By looking in depth at these writers, their work, and their historical and aesthetic significance, Jehanne M. Gheith shows how taking women's writings into account transforms traditional understandings of the field of nineteenth century Russian literature. Gheith's analysis of these writers' biographies, prose, and criticism intervenes in debates about the Russian literary tradition in general, Russian women's writing in particular, and feminist criticism on female authors and authority as it has largely been developed in and for Western contexts.

Published by: Northwestern University Press

Series: Studies in Russian Literature and Theory


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pp. vii-vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiii

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 ...

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pp. xv-xvii

In one way or another this book has been with me for over ten years. This means that I have many people to thank for many different kinds of help. I want to thank those who provided inspiration, good readings, and more when I first began working on Evgeniia Tur for my doctoral dissertation: Lazar Fleishman, Joseph Frank, Willliam Mills Todd III, Andrew Wachtel, Michael Gorham, Sally Kux, and Kevin Platt. And especial thanks to Paul von Stamwitz for his steadiness, library work, and belief in me.

Note on Sources

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pp. xix-xx

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pp. 3-28

The ebb and flow of these quotations indicates the restless search—spanning some 150 years—for the Russian Sand, Austen, or Eliot and the attempt to legitimate (or not) Russian women’s prose in these terms. This search is part of the larger phenomenon of Russia’s comparison of self and western European other and is also inextricably related to the creation of a Russian literary tradition in the nineteenth century and beyond.

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Chapter One: Evgeniia Tur: Biography of a Female Authoress

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pp. 29-51

Evgeniia Tur (1815–92) was a writer of multiple contradictions. In her fiction she focused intensely and positively on female character and female readers, and in her criticism she defended female writers, yet in life she identified almost completely with male literati and actively distanced herself from other women writers. Tur sometimes insisted that writing was the most important thing in her life, while at other times, she valued making money above all else.

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Chapter Two: Biography of a Pseudonym: The Case of “V. Krestovskii”

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pp. 52-81

Khvoshchinskaia/Krestovkii (1820?–89) emphatically refused biography and resisted public acknowledgment, making her life particularly resistant to biographical narration.1 As was true of Tur, no comprehensive biography of Krestovskii exists; information about her life is obtained from published and unpublished letters (by and about her), diaries, and critical articles written in the nineteenth century.

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Chapter Three: Women on the Woman Question: Evgeniia Tur as Critic

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pp. 83-103

The history of Russian literary criticism has been written almost without reference to female critics.1 It is not known how many women critics there were in the nineteenth century or what their influence was (slightly more work has been done on their appearance in the Silver Age).2 A 1995 volume on female critics in western Europe and the United States indicates the dimension of the problem: “nearly all anthologies and ...

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Chapter Four: A Pseudonym’s Criticism: The Identities and Distances of the “Woman Author”

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pp. 104-128

In November 1861, Stepan Dudyshkin, a member of the editorial board of the thick journal Notes of the Fatherland (Otechestvennye zapiski), invited the Khvoshchinskaia sisters to publish criticism in the journal. Having read Nadezhda’s comments on Sofiia’s work, he was certain that she would be an insightful critic and he added:

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Chapter Five: Reconfiguring the Social: The Fiction of Evgeniia Tur

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pp. 129-155

On the publication of her first work, A Mistake (Oshibka, 1849), Tur was hailed as Russia’s leading woman author and could lay claim to that title as late as 1865.1 Aleksandr Ostrovskii praised Tur’s novella highly, and the reviewer for The Contemporary called it “one of the most noteworthy achievements of 1849.”2 A Mistake was so well-received that, hoping for a similar success, Avdot’ia Panaeva and Nikolai ...

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Chapter Six: “V. Krestovskii,” Writer of the Fifties

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pp. 156-185

Krestovskii's career in fiction lasted nearly fifty years (1842–89). Beginning as a poet, she switched primarily to prose in 1850.1 Krestovskii continued to write literally up until her death; she began a novella three days before she died (only six lines survive).2 Her works, which include several novels, many novellas, and a series of sketches and stories, were collected several times. Despite her frequent protestations to ...

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Concluding Possibilities

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pp. 186-190

In concluding, I will return to the three theoretical concerns outlined in the introduction: Russian writing, Russian women’s writing, and (very briefly) feminist criticism of women’s writing in cultures other than Russia. This book raises as many questions as it resolves, and I will end by discussing some of these. Although this is an unusual way to end a study, it is fitting both as a tribute to Krestovskii and because scholarship, ...


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pp. 191-270

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 271-295


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pp. 297-302

E-ISBN-13: 9780810121737
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810117143

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2004

Edition: 1
Series Title: Studies in Russian Literature and Theory
Series Editor Byline: Gary Saul Morson See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 607378371
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Finding the Middle Ground

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Subject Headings

  • Ambivalence in literature.
  • Krestovskīĭ, V., 1824-1889 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Russian literature -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Women and literature -- Russia -- History -- 19th century.
  • Women authors, Russian -- 19th century -- Biography.
  • Tur, Evgenii͡a, 1815-1892 -- Criticism and interpretation.
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