Three of Chekhov’s short prose works owe an inspirational debt to the “Old Testament Susanna,” who first appears in an apocryphal chapter in the Book of Daniel and has lived on in various religious and artistic interpretations. “Artists’ Wives” (1880) investigates the ethical and aesthetic dilemmas that face the professional male artist as he renders women. “Aniuta” (1886) widens the scope of the male gaze, which is now wielded by doctors as well as artists. “The Mire” (1888) explores the problematic of the Jewishness of the text, recasting the innocent Susanna as a lascivious convert from Judaism to Russian Orthodoxy. Each of these stories deals in its own way with the theme of the exploitability of women. Taken together, they reveal Chekhov’s portrait of the male artist as less a creator than a borrower: He does not so much write as rewrite, reinterpret and appropriate.


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pp. 74-96
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