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Women's Autobiography in Russia: Models of Private and Public


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Vidić, Adrijana. (2011). Women's Autobiography in Russia: Models of Private and Public. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of East Slavic Languages and Literature. [mentor Matek Šmit, Zdenka].

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If autobiography is said to be a marginalized genre, then Russian women's autobiography should be recognized as triply marginalized phenomenon with all the constitutive parts of the phrase being subject to extensive discussions. What once were texts read primarily by historians for their documentary value now transformed into the vast field for seminal Western feminist readings of the 1980s. Meanwhile, such was not the case with interest in these texts in Soviet Russia. The disintegration of USSR marked the beginning of both feminist approach and of strong resistance to any such attempt being generally perceived as imported and alien to Russian culture. Another important issue raised in the 1990s was the degree to which Western methods should be applied to Russian literature. A whole set of other unsolved problems concerning genre limits, referentiality, fictionalization of the Self, subject universality, essentialism, relations of power, etc. remain obstacles that require specific research strategies. Another broadly used concept applicable to autobiography is the relationship between public and private. Although commonly perceived as binary in nature, it becomes much more complex when integrated into studies of women's autobiography and involves such side phenomena as alternative publics which take place of the public sphere in cases it becomes inaccessible. Since Russian women's exclusion from "real" public posed a norm or their rare presences implied set of rules to be followed both in public and in their autobiographical texts, it was exactly this relationship between private and public spheres that became the main interest of this study. Our main goal was to identify all the narrative strategies in which private and public could be discussed through close reading of five specifically chosen autobiographical texts. Another dimension we found useful for this discussion was the extrinsic issue of additional uses these texts went through with or after their publication, respectively. These regularly involved different propaganda purposes which consequently altered public images of their authors. Text corpus we used for analysis involved very heterogeneous texts of different length from different periods and of different authorial backgrounds, but we perceived and discussed each of them as autobiography in narrow sense of the term, although most texts displayed memoir features as well. The reasons we chose those signed by Natalia Dolgorukova, Anna Labzina, Ekaterina Dashkova, Nadezhda Durova and Marina Tsvetaeva are connected with essentialism avoidance strategies. None of these texts, alone or paired, is quantitavely, versatively or proportionately substantial for description of generally recognized phases of women's autobiography chronology or some other group of features. By doing so, we disabled any general conclusion drawing but rather oriented ourselves towards particular cases in depth. General narrative devices detected in these texts are in no way exclusively Russian. All the strategies used by respective authors, such as dual self-representation, relationality, mythologization or addressee conditioned content, were familiar from autobiographical theory but nevertheless extensive context knowledge remains the foremost requirement for their detection and their proper interpretation. Finally, conclusions reached in this study are solely valid for the chosen text corpus although they concurrently constitute solid ground for further studies of private and public in Russian women's autobiography.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Russian women's autobiography, autobiographical theory, feminist approach, essentialism, private and public, alternative public spheres, relationality, self-representation, addressee, mythologization
Subjects: Slavic languages and literatures > East Slavic languages and literatures - Russian
Comparative literature
Departments: Department of East Slavic Languages and Literature
Supervisor: Matek Šmit, Zdenka
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2015 12:00
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2015 12:00

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