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The Non-Canonical Canon: From Nikolai Novikov's Historical Dictionary to Dictionary of Russian Women Writers Hilde Hoogenboom With an international team of 3 editors and 101 contributors from the United States, Russia, and Europe, Dictionary ofRussian Women Writers contains many writers who, though born in Russia, died in Asia, Europe, and America, and wrote in languages other than Russian1 It makes two related arguments: for the inclusion of Russian women writers in Russia's literary history, and for the integration of the diasporan writers created by the Russian Revolution into a literary history that once excluded emigre writers. Dictionary of Russian Women Writers belongs to a long, extremely coherent, international genre of collections of women worthies, which we know exists thanks to compilers' professional habit of acknowledging and often disagreeing with their predecessors2 International exchanges about virtuous, learned, heroic, civic, and some not so excellent women constitute early, durable, and significant transnational debates about tradition, culture, gender, and nation. The continuous national and transnational tensions among important primary sources of women's literary history bear out the arguments of Karen Offen in European Feminisms, 1700- 1950: A Political History that feminism has a long history and is both comparative and political. Distinctive features of Dictionary of Russian Women Writers suggest, as scholars rightly argue, that in comparison to European women, Russian women writers have been and remain under-researched. Like all such Russian compilations, but unlike their French and English counterparts, it contains a very large number of writers, and the entries contain reference works and list archives. Yet these unusual aspects of Dictionary of Russian Women Writers in a comparative context also raise issues about Russian literary history more generally. The latest comprehensive Russian bio-bibliographical dictionary, Russian Writers 1800- 1917 (Russkie pisateli 1800- 1917, 1989-), with 3,500 planned entries, takes stock of 200 years of problems: lack of access to archives, the need to check information handed down from one source to another , the focus on a few stars, the importance of non-canonical genres for 1 Ledkovsky, Rosenthal, and Zirin, Dictionary of Russian WomeH Writers. 2 See my comprehensive article, which covers close to 100 compilations (Hoogenboom, "From Bibliography to Canon"). Mapping the Feminine: Russian Women and Cultural Difference. Hilde Hoogenboom, Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy, and Irina Reyfman, eds. Bloomington, IN: Siavica Publishers, 2008, 281 -3 00. 282 HILDE HOOGENBOOM tracing literary culture, and perhaps most important, the problem of politics, with writers in internal and international exile, leading to distorted information3 Features that might seem specific to women writers appear to apply to Russian writers as a whole. Nevertheless, like other such compilations of women, Dictionary of Russian Women Writers addresses a very serious issue specific to all women writers. The strength of this long transnational tradition of compilations of notable women stands in profound contrast to the problem they continue to address: the exclusion of women from national literary histories. Scholars have analyzed women's exclusion from French and English literary histories; this article outlines the tensions surrounding women that were particular to Russian literary history in the past three centuries4 As feminist scholars move back into the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the study of gender raises new questions about the very roots of literary history itself, by probing such fundamental categories as authorship, publication, literary and non-literary genres, periodization, aesthetic schools, canons, and nationalliteratures.5 A central problem that confronted both Russia's very first literary bibliographer and compilers of Russian women may be called the "politics of a non-canonical canon." Canons are political narratives of significant works, while collections of all writers disrupt easy generalizations about lone great writers. The inclusive, extensive nature of Russia's first compilation by Nikolai Novikov (1744-1818) is readily apparent from the title: Essay of a Historical Dictionary of Russian Writers: From Various Printed Books and Manuscripts, Reported Proceedings, and Oral Legends (Opyt istoricheskogo slovaria a rossiiskikh pisateliakh, iz raznykh pechatnykh i rukopisnykh knig, soobshchennykh izvestii i slovesnykh predanii, 1772). In a quantitative move, Novikov aims not to create a limited hierarchy of great works, but to show the extent of Russia's enlightenment : "I tried to collect the names of all our writers...."6 Critics noted that a number of writers in Novikov's Historical Dictionary could not be found in any other place; some had never published and others were not even known to contemporaries at the time? Plans to update it were never carried out and it became a rarity, to...


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