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Russia’s great women writers from the XIX century, a talk by Dr Anna Berman

Thursday 25 January, 19:00 - 20:30

This talk introduces Russia’s great women writers from the nineteenth century who have largely dropped out of literary history: Evdokiya Rostopchina, Karolina Pavlova, Evgeniya Tur, and the “Russian Brontës”—Nadezhda, Sofia, and Praskovia Khvoshchinskaya.

WHEN: Thursday, 25 January 2024, 19:00-20:30
Book via allevents: CamRuSS members free, others £5.
Please register in advance for this meeting using this link. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Few people outside of Russia today could name a single nineteenth-century Russian woman writer, but women were at the center of the literary world in the nineteenth century as poets, novelists, and critics.  When Alexander Pushkin, the “father of Russian literature” died in 1837, his unfinished notebook was ceremonially passed on not to Mikhail Lermontov—who attempted to take up Pushkin’s mantle—but to the female poet, Evdokiya Rostopchina. The third highest paid author in the 1870s—after Tolstoy and Turgenev—was not Dostoevsky, but Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaya, who published her novels under the male pseudonym V. Krestovsky. She began her career with over one hundred poems before turning to fiction to support her family, with over a dozen novels, thirty-six tales and stories, fifty-four translations from five languages, and over two dozen articles and reviews. Khvoshchinskaya’s portrait was commissioned by Pavel Tretyakov for his series of Russia’s most important cultural figures and was carried out by Ivan Kramskoi, the same artist who painted Tolstoy for the series.

By the end of the nineteenth century, women made up about fifteen percent of professional writers in Russia. They published in the same journals as men and were reviewed alongside them by the same critics (as well as writing criticism themselves).  Yet these women disappeared from literary history in the twentieth century, as the Bolsheviks nationalized the works of 57 writers—all men—for publication in greater quantities than Soviet literature. This talk offers a chance to rediscover some of these great women writers who have been erased from literary history.  It will explore the lives and careers of Evdokiya Rostopchina, Karolina Pavlova, Evgeniya Tur, and the “Russian Brontës”—Nadezhda, Sofiya, and Praskoviya Khvoshchinskaya.

Dr Anna Berman completed her B.A. at Brown University, her M.Phil. at Cambridge University, and her Ph.D. at Princeton University.  She was an Associate Professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Russian Section at McGill University (Montréal, Canada) before joining faculty at Cambridge.
Anna’s primary area of interest is the nineteenth-century Russian and English novel.  Her research has largely focused on questions about family, kinship structures, love, and marriage, with secondary interests in the relationship between science and literature (especially the response to Charles Darwin and Ilya Mechnikov in Russian literature), and adaptations of Russian literary classics to the operatic stage.  Her current focus is on Russia’s nineteenth-century women novelists.


Thursday 25 January
19:00 - 20:30



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