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491 SEKULIĆ, Isidora (1877–1958) Serbian writer who contributed significantly to the cultural development of the country in the twentieth century; literary critic and educator; co-founder of the Društvo za prosvećivanje žene i zaštitu njenih prava (Society for Women’s Enlightenment and Protection of their Rights). Isidora Sekulić was born on 16 February 1877 in Mošorin, Vojvodina (then part of Austro-Hungary, today in Serbia). Isidora ’s mother Ljubica Sekulić, her father Danilo Sekulić, and brother Predrag Sekuli ć (b. 1874), all died of tuberculosis within seventeen years of one another (in 1883, 1900 and 1881 respectively), leaving young Isidora with no close relatives. She was educated in Novi Sad, Sombor and Pest, completing the College for Ladies in Novi Sad, later the Srpska Preparandija (Serbian Academy) in Sombor. In 1894, she traveled to Pest (Hungary) to pursue a diploma in a scientific field of study, which she obtained with distinction three years later. In 1909, she decided to move to Serbia, finally settling in Belgrade in 1912. (Before 1909 she lived in Vojvodina, then part of Austria Hungary, and had acquired Austro-Hungarian citizenship.) Her marriage in 1913 to Emil Stremnicki, a Polish doctor she met while in Norway, ended abruptly after a year or so in December 1913, when Stremnicki died suddenly on the couple’s journey back from Norway to Serbia. She never remarried, nor had children. After her husband’s death, she continued her education, receiving her doctorate in philosophy in 1922 (in Berlin) and working as a high school teacher until her retirement in 1931. She wasn’t particularly close to her students. An exceptional neatness characterized her teaching and any other tasks to which she dedicated herself. Isidora Sekulić has been labeled ‘Serbia’s first woman writer,’ a phrase which, although slightly clichéd, accurately describes her status within a male-dominated Serbian literary tradition that did not choose to recognize or acknowledge other women writers to the extent that it recognized Sekulić. In this sense, Sekulić was indeed an exceptional figure, her literary and essayist works having been greatly appreciated by her contemporaries. She wrote numerous pieces of prose, as well as commentaries and essays on art. Her first foray into literary criticism was published in 1910, shortly followed by two books: Saputnici (Fellow travelers, 1913) and Pisma iz Norveske 492 (Letters from Norway, 1914). Psychological reflection, impressionistic sketches and intellectual character portraits were important features of Isidora Sekulić’s écriture, praised by prominent figures in Yugoslavian literary circles, including the critics Jovan Skerlić (1877–1914) and Antun Gustav Matoš (1873–1914). Yet for many critics, Sekulić’s best work was yet to come, in the form of her collection of stories, Kronika palanackog groblja (The chronicles of a small town graveyard, 1940). Mournfully charting individual and family fortunes, many of these stories opened with descriptions of a small town graveyard and its neglected graves, and through Sekulić’s strong, female, but not necessarily ‘feminine’ characters, they raised critical (though not explicitly critical) questions about male-dominated society. Sekulić ’s critical articles and essays treated a wide range of topics, from national to world literature, as well as visual arts, theater, music, language and moral philosophy —see for example her three volume collection of essays, Analitički trenuci i teme (Analytical moments and themes, 1940). The writer Jovan Deretić has divided Sekulić’s work into essays and critical writing, drawing a line between fiction and literary criticism. Others, such as B. Stojanović-Pantović, have opted for a more postmodern interpretation of Sekulić’s work, choosing to see her essays more as ‘critical prose’ or, in Barthes’ sense, as texts that transcend borders between theory, history and traditional literary criticism. Sekulić wrote about Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) and Sarah Bernhardt (1844–1923), but not specifically as women, concentrating instead on their poetics and literary portrait sketches. This was partly motivated by her own experience of male-dominated critique, particularly the refusal of Jovan Skerlić to treat the works of female writers as innovative or intellectually competent. At the same time, Sekulić sometimes discussed male writers in terms of their female characters— see her descriptive and critical analyses of the work of Milan Rakić (1876–1938), Veljko Petrović (1884–1967) and Ivo Andrić (1892–1975)—in articles written between 1892 and 1975. In the first half of the twentieth century, Isidora Sekulić was active in the Kolo srpskih sestara (Circle of Serbian Sisters, 1903–1944), particularly in the early 1920s. She...


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