Introduction

This study offers some preliminary suggestions toward rethinking Russian Romanticism, issues of canonicity, and the place of mid-nineteenth-century women poets in the history of Russian literature. While the question of whether Russia had a Romantic movement has been debated,1 most scholars agree that Romanticism was a pan-European phenomenon with national variations, one of which was Russian. René Wellek has defined three underlying elements common to all national Romantic movements, Russia's included: first, a view of poetry for which the imagination, rather than rationality, is central; second, a view of the world for which nature, rather than a mechanistic universe, is central; and third, a view of poetic style for which symbol and myth, rather than allegory, are central.2

Here I wish to consider the place of women poets in Romanticism. Several literary critics have characterized Romanticism as a masculine-gendered institution unfriendly to women.3 Certainly, what Bertrand Russell described as the "essential Romantic trait," "titanic cosmic self-assertion," would not have been easy for women of the time to develop and express in a society that demanded from them modesty, self-sacrifice, and devotion to the needs of others.4 Moreover, a closer look at Wellek's three basic elements of Romanticism shows that in practice they, too, are gender-specific. Men poets, in expressing a "view of poetry for which imagination is central," personified imagination as a female muse, often depicting her as sexual partner. The "view of the world for which nature is central" means that Nature—troped as silent, feminine, mother, and Other—served as an object of interpretation or assimilation by the man poet. The third element, a poetic style for which symbol and myth are central, meant in the case of several influential

Romantic poets androcentric or even misogynist myths. For example, in Pushkin we find men engaged in oedipal struggles over the women who "belong" to powerful statues or generals ("Kamennyi gost'" [The stone guest], Evgenii Onegin [Eugene Onegin]). In Byron we find sexually available harem girls ("The Giaour," "The Corsair").

I suggest that mid-nineteenth-century Russian women poets had to find different ways to relate to the imagination, to nature and to myth and symbol. They had to transform male-defined traditions, genres, and themes in order to be able to address women's experiences or even to represent themselves as poets. That is, they had to reinvent Romantic poetry. Ironically, men critics, rather than recognizing these women's tremendous inventiveness in reworking literary forms, dismissed them as not "real" (that is, men) poets.5

This study, then, examines the poetic practices and achievements of mid-nineteenth-century women poets in relation to the gender-based issues they shared and their various responses to them.6 I base my generalizations on the poetic practices of fourteen significant but generally unknown Russian women poets born between 1799 and 1824: Praskov'ia Bakunina (1810-80), Aleksandra Fuks (1805-53), Liubov' Garelina (1824-85), Anna Gotovtseva (1799-1871), Nadezhda Khvo-shchinskaia (1824-89), Elisaveta Kul'man (1808-25), Mariia Lisitsyna (d. 1842), Anna Mordovtseva (1823-85), Karolina Pavlova (1807-93), Evdokiia Rostopchina (1811-58), Elisaveta Shakhova (1822-99), Ekate-rina Shakhovskaia (1814-36), Nadezhda Teplova (1814-48), and Iuliia Zhadovskaia (1824-83).71 will focus on the work of three of these poets—Rostopchina, Khvoshchinskaia, and Pavlova—in greater detail.

For comparison I refer to the poetic practices of seven prominent Russian men poets born between 1798 and 1820: Evgenii Baratynsky (18001844), Anton Del'vig (1798-1831), Afanasii Fet (1820-92), Nikolai Iazykov (1803-46), Mikhail Lermontov (1814-41), Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837), and Fedor Tiutchev (1803-73). However, since not every man poet of this generation became canonical, we also must consider the poetic practices of contemporary noncanonical men poets. I have chosen Pavel Fedotov (1815-52), Eduard Guber (1814-47), Aleksei Khomi-akov (1804-60), Aleksei Kol'tsov (1809-42), Apollon Maikov (1821-97), Evgenii Mil'keev (1815-46?), and Fedor Miller (1818-81), poets whose works have been anthologized but whom literary historians refer to as vtorostepenii (second rank or minor).8 A full discussion of the poetical practices of canonical and noncanonical men poets, however, lies outside my scope. This study is not intended to be a general survey of Rus-

sian Romantic poetry. Rather, it is a corrective to scholars' tendency in the past to neglect issues of gender—and gender as a category of analysis—when looking at this period.

The women poets—all members of the generation that produced Pushkin and the Golden Age of Russian literature—came from a wide variety of social classes and circumstances. Mariia Lisitsyna was the daughter of an actor; Elisaveta Kul'man, whose civil-servant father died when she was young, lived and died in extreme poverty; Nadezhda Teplova was the daughter of a merchant. Liubov' Garelina, Anna Go-tovtseva, Karolina Pavlova, Evdokiia Rostopchina, Elisaveta Shakhova, Ekaterina Shakhovskaia, Iuliia Zhadovskaia, and Aleksandra Fuks belonged to various levels of the aristocracy. Praskov'ia Bakunina and Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia were both déclassé: their fathers were dismissed from government positions for embezzlement. The life span of these poets ranged from seventeen years (Kul'man) to eighty-six (Pavlova); some lived in Saint Petersburg (Kul'man, Rostopchina, Shakhova), some in Moscow (Bakunina, Lisitsyna, Pavlova, Shak-hovskaia, Teplova), and others in the provinces (Fuks, Gotovtseva, Khvoshchinskaia, Mordovtseva, Zhadovskaia).

Their writings were equally varied. Many of them wrote prose works and plays, as well as poetry. Almost all of them wrote verse epistles, nature poetry, love lyrics, and folk poetry. In addition, their poetic genres included religious lyrics, visions, verse prologues for domestic theater, lullabies, anacreontic and other classical verse forms, fables, elegies, narrative poems (poemy), and verse tales (povesti v stikhakh), as well as otryvki iz poemy (excerpts or fragments from narrative poems, a genre in itself), ballads, epigrams, metaphysical poetry, civic poetry, and a novel in verse (roman v stikhakh).9

Yet despite their diversity, these women poets all faced common social and literary-historical issues as women writers. Perhaps the most obvious and fundamental was their difficulty in getting their works published. A major part of the poetry of Bakunina, Gotovtseva, Khvoshchinskaia, Mordovtseva, and Teplova—in quality as well as quantity—still remains entombed in archives. Much of the poetry of the others has been lost entirely: most of Pavlova's work after 1864, most of Kul'man's original poetry (as opposed to her translations), much of Teplova's early poetry and late prose, and all but three works by Shakhovskaia, one of which is a fragment of a larger work.10

Even when these poets managed to get their work published in journals or—against all odds—as books, the published versions often did not reflect their wishes. Pavlova's only poetry collection to appear during her lifetime, published in Russia in 1863, after she was already living abroad, was badly edited by two Russian friends. Khvoshchinskaia strongly objected to having her poetry "edited" for publication by Vladimir Zotov (then editor of Literaturnaia gazeta), to Zotov's amusement. Similarly Nadezhda Teplova, who was forced to work through editor and Moscow University professor Mikhail Maksimovich, expressed annoyance at his attempts to improve her poetry.11 These difficulties, I suggest, are the effects of social conditions for women, discussed in the next chapter.

This is not to deny that men writers also had trouble getting published and controlling their work. For example, Pushkin's first poetry collection did not appear until 1825 because the friend to whom he entrusted the manuscript in 1820 did not keep his promise to publish it. Guber's first book of poetry, although passed by the censor, never appeared in print, and the badly edited posthumous edition of his works (1859), according to the Soviet scholar E. M. Shneiderman, cannot be considered a reliable text. As for problems with artistic control, Osip Senkovsky, the editor of Biblioteka dlia chteniia (Library for reading), was notorious for reworking all authors' texts without their permission.12 Nonetheless, most of the canonical and noncanonical men poets, as we shall see, not only enjoyed the help of powerful mentors at the beginning of their careers but also might themselves become publishers or editors of journals and al'manakhi (annual literary collections), thus gaining control of literary "means of production." I do not intend to suggest that the literary careers of the canonical men poets were typical for all men poets of their generation, but rather that social constraints made such achievements impossible for any woman.

A related issue for these women poets consists in the long interruptions we find in their careers, what Tillie Olsen calls "silences." Olsen observes that while men writers also fall silent for external reasons, women additionally have had to contend with social and family demands that make sustained writing especially difficult (Silences, 17, 23, 38-39). In her enumeration of silences, Olsen mentions writers "never coming to book form at all" (6), a term that describes Khvoshchinskaia, Bakunina, and Gotovtseva. Khvoshchinskaia published a great deal of poetry in tolstye zhurnaly ("thick" journals) and newspapers but never collected it in book form (although she did publish books of her prose). Bakunina and Gotovtseva may have "chosen" not to publish the notebooks of their poetry that still remain in archives, but that choice was probably condi tioned by their society's images of the woman writer.13 Olsen also mentions "one-book silences" (9), a term that describes Lisitsyna, Shakhovskaia, Garelina, and Mordovtseva.14 (Here, as elsewhere, I am referring to books of poetry not of prose.) Lisitsyna and Shakhovskaia each published a book early and then fell silent. Garelina and Mordovtseva, on the other hand, are examples of what Olsen calls "foreground silence before the achievement" (10, italics hers), having published their one book at the age of forty-three and fifty, respectively. In the context of such interrupted careers the accomplishments of Fuks, Pavlova, Rostopchina, and Shakhova, who each published several books of poetry, are all the more impressive.

Canons

Historically, these women poets have been excluded from the canon of Russian literature—that collection of authors and works generally considered central to the understanding of literature, as reflected in teaching and scholarship.15 In the nineteenth century, men canon builders and gatekeepers—critics, book reviewers, editors, book and journal publishers—dismissed women's poetry because of prejudices against women writers (see chapter 1), but also because these men defined poetry in terms of male voice, viewpoint, values, experiences, and tastes, as well as male themes and use of genres.16 Twentieth-century Russian literary scholars similarly underrepresented or omitted women from anthologies and studies of Russian Romantic poetry.17

Another factor that may have contributed to the exclusion of all women and some contemporary men poets from the canon is their lack of "literary social capital."18 For the majority of Russian women of this generation expected to attract a husband and then run a household— that is, women of all classes except the peasantry—social capital primarily consisted of the size of their dowries, their fathers' social standing, and their physical attractiveness to men. In the male realm of literature, however, I would suggest that, along with wealth and social standing, social capital also included education, mentors, location— whether one lived in the provinces or the capitals—and personal connections with literary gatekeepers and opinion makers: in John Guil-lory's terms, "access to the means of literary production and consumption" (Cultural Capital, 17). I further suggest that such access often played a large part in a writer's literary reception and subsequent reputation. In the last chapter we shall see the importance of literary social capital in the lives of canonical and noncanonical men poets. Gender, however, also appears to have been an important component of a poet's literary social capital. Thus, for reasons that will be discussed in chapters 1 and 2, even well-to-do women poets who lived in Moscow or Saint Petersburg commanded less literary social capital than their men contemporaries.

But what constitutes canonicity in Russian Romanticism and what accounts for the absence of women poets? Pushkin, Russia's national poet, occupies what can be thought of as the first circle or the top of a hierarchy. Just below him we find his poet associates (Baratynsky), poet friends (Del'vig), and those whose work appeared in his journal, Sovre-mennik (The contemporary). The poets whom Pushkin mentored (for example, Iazykov) and Pushkin's "self-appointed successor," Lermontov, who suffered political consequences for his outraged elegy on Pushkin's death, also occupy ranks near the top.19 Women poets who had personal contact with Pushkin (Rostopchina, Pavlova, Fuks), however, did not thereby enter the canon since Pushkin did not mentor—or respect—women poets and generally thought very little of women's intellectual and aesthetic capabilities.20 Nor did critical attitudes toward Pushkin's women contemporaries improve during the rest of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, with the exception of a short-lived Pavlova revival among the Symbolists (see chapter 6).

The Soviet era perpetuated negative attitudes toward women and women poets on a political and nationalistic basis. While, according to a Soviet slogan, the Revolution had "resolved the woman question," women's actual needs and concerns remained a low priority for the Soviet government, which fostered a paramilitary atmosphere in order to industrialize the country with all possible speed. Writers were expected to help build socialism by promoting and celebrating in literature these heroic goals—a literary climate unpropitious not only to the depiction of women characters but also to the reputations of women writers.21

So, for example, K. D. Muratova's 1962 index, Istoriia russkoi literatury XIX veka: Bibliograficheskii ukazatel' (History of Russian literature of the nineteenth century: A bibliographic index) lists only two post-1917 articles about Rostopchina, one published in Irkutsk. In 1965 V. S. Kiselev pronounced her a forgotten poet. In the case of Karolina Pavlova, now the best-known woman poet of her generation, we find shorter articles about her in the 1955 and 1975 Bol'shaia sovetskaia entsiklopediia (The great Soviet encyclopedia) than about her husband, Nikolai Pavlov, a littera teur whose entire literary output consisted of six povesti (tales). Pavlova is described in these encyclopedias as "Pavlov's wife" and an "authoress" (pisatel'nitsa). As late as 1991 a Soviet publication identified Pavlova as a "poetess"—although one of "surprisingly varied themes and genres"—to whom several well-known men poets dedicated poems.22 Soviet ideology appears to have promoted and even encouraged a condescending attitude toward women's writing. Collections appeared with such titles as Serdtsa chutkogo prozren'em. . . : Povesti i rasskazy russkikh pisatel'nits XIX v. (With the insight of a sensitive heart.. . : Tales and stories by Russian authoresses of the nineteenth century, 1991), Moskovskaia muza (The Moscow muse, 1998), and Tsaritsy muz: Russkie poetessy XIX veka (Queens of the muses: Russian poetesses of the nineteenth century, 1989). No collection of Russian men's poetry bore the title "The Moscow Muse" or "Kings of the Muses." Several Soviet scholars in studies of nineteenth-century women poets referred to them by their first names, something one cannot imagine them doing to male literary figures.23 Nor were women poets even included in the minor canon known to literary specialists. In the scholarly Biblioteka poeta (Poet's library) series of the Soviet period only one nineteenth-century woman poet, Pavlova, had a volume entirely devoted to her work.

Methodological and Theoretical Considerations

Some methodological and theoretical issues should be clarified before we proceed. First, I have included women poets in this study on the basis of the quality and quantity of their poetry. Most published at least one book of poetry, a feat in itself for a Russian woman at this time; a few left notebooks of unpublished poems.24

Second, I have chosen to consider the work of these women poets in relation to that of their male contemporaries. Gynocritical studies that look at women writers in their own terms have been essential for recovering forgotten women writers, defining women's literary traditions, and developing "interpretive strategies" appropriate to their work.25 However, many critics have realized the importance of eventually treating men and women writers together. Indeed, such a comparative approach is necessary in order to answer fully the question that Elaine Showalter calls central to feminist criticism: "What is the difference of women's writing?"26

Although, as I intend to show, the women poets of this generation approached poetry differently from the men, they also responded to and polemicized with men's poetry. A comparative approach, then, will have the additional advantage of illuminating specific poems throughout this study. For example, Iuliia Zhadovskaia's poem "P[erevleskomu] (Naprasno ty sulish', tak zharko slavu mne)" (To Perevlesky [In vain do you so warmly promise me glory], 1847) appears at first glance to be a typical example of what Anne Mellor calls the "modesty topos" (Romanticism and Gender, 8), in which women denigrated their own work, hoping to forestall attacks by men critics.27 Readers, Zhadovskaia writes, do not respond to her bednyi, grustnyi stikh (poor, sad verse) and, she concludes,

3 b Mnpe npoMe^BKHy naayqero 3Be3flon, KoTopyro, noBept, HeMHorne 3aMeT«T.

(I will flash in the world like a falling star Which, believe me, not many will notice).28

Zhadovskaia's poem, however, seems a great deal less self-effacing if read against Baratynsky's well-known classical ode "Osen'" (Autumn, 1837), in which the following lines appear:

3Be3^a He6ec b 6e3floHHHH MpaK na^eT; nycTt 3aropnTca b hhx apyraa: He «BcrayeT 3eM.ne y^ep6 o^hoh, He nopa^aeT yxo Mnpa fla^eKoro ee na^eHta boh.

A star of the heavens fall into bottomless darkness; Let another begin to blaze in its place: The loss of the first will not be apparent to the earth, Its falling cry

Will not strike the ear of the distant world.)

Baratynsky's image of the falling star refers to Pushkin, an allusion that readers would have understood, as the poem appeared in Sovremennik, the journal he had edited, just a few months after his death.291 suggest that Zhadovskaia knew Baratynsky's poem and consciously or unconsciously appropriated Baratynsky's reference to Pushkin for herself, an indication that she took herself more seriously as a poet than the language of her poem might at first suggest.

Similarly, our understanding of Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia's poem "Kladbishche" (The cemetery, 1859) is enriched if we see it in relation to another Baratynsky poem, his album verse "V al'bom" (For an album, 1829), dedicated to Karolina Pavlova. In this poem Baratynsky jokingly compares albums to cemeteries, in which writers hope for immortality and dread judgment. Khvoshchinskaia's five-part poem "Kladbishche" uses Baratynsky's comparison as the basis for an extended meditation on life and death. Khvoshchinskaia's poem also responds to Lermontov's "Kladbishche" (1830) by echoing his syntax, but not his meaning. Likewise, Pushkin's "K moriu" (To the sea, 1824), in which the speaker regrets that he was not free to travel abroad, provides a counterpoint to Shakhova's "Progulka u vzmor'ia," (A walk by the seashore, 1839; see appendix), in which the speaker and her friend confront the far greater lack of freedom they experience as women. Pavlova's narrative poem Kadril' (Quadrille, 1859), which she dedicated to Baratynsky, should be read against Baratynsky's narrative poems Bal (The ball, 1828) and Nalozhnitsa (The concubine, 1831, later retitled Tsyganka [The gypsy]). Both of Baratynsky's poems have climactic scenes at a ball. Pavlova's work, consisting of a conversation among four society women just before going to a ball, implicitly criticizes Baratynsky's stereotyping of women characters as angels (Vera in Nalozhnitsa, Ol'ga in Bal) or as demonic, needy destroyers of the men they love and of themselves (Sara in Nalozhnitsa, Nina in Bal). Rather, Pavlova's four very ordinary women in Kadril' more realistically recount how much self-control, courage, and self-knowledge is required of women to perform successfully in society.

As for theoretical issues, this study raises three in particular. The first and most basic, which I shall save for last, concerns how we are to evaluate these unknown poets. The other two are interrelated: Are these mostly unknown women poets worth considering at all? And, if so, what are the advantages of viewing their work through the lens of gender? In fact, questions of gender can explain why these poets are unknown or have been unknown until very recently.

Only over the last twenty-five years have scholars in many literatures begun to challenge literary canons, questioning the bases on which writers are included in them and who decides what those bases are. Partly as a result of these challenges—and of the work accomplished in such disciplines as women's studies, African American studies, gay studies, and postcolonial studies—many previously unknown women writers have become "known," appearing on course reading lists, in anthologies, and as the subjects of journal articles, dissertations, and panel discussions. In the West, starting in the 1970s, Slavic scholars, inspired by the recovery of women writers in other literatures, began to recover Russian women writers. In the Soviet Union, from the mid-1980s, and perhaps in response to the Western women's movement, Russian literary scholars began to publish anthologies of Russian women's writing (see end of note 17), as well as separate editions of individual women writers' works and scholarship about them—although, as we have seen, without a feminist critical context. As a result of this work Pavlova, Rostopchina, and to a lesser degree, Zhadovskaia and Teplova are now "known."30 Such expansions of literary canons suggest that we need not dismiss writers out of hand simply because no one until now has examined their work.

It is worth considering the bases on which literary scholars have challenged the canon of known writers. Some have questioned the assumption that literary canons embody universal, ahistoric values that are passed down intact from generation to generation. Rather, these scholars argue that standards of literary excellence are like gender—not essential, but "socially constructed" and political in the sense that they are used as instruments of power. Thus canons constantly evolve, reflecting cultural biases and ongoing literary political struggles. Indeed, some believe canons to be the means by which people in aesthetic power— the above-mentioned literary gatekeepers—keep out differing interests, values, and views of the world.31 So, in regard to nineteenth-century American literature, Nina Baym writes of "the biases . . . in favor, say, of whaling ships rather than the sewing circle as a symbol of the human community" (Women's Fiction, 4). Certainly, the canon of nineteenth-century Russian literature generally reflected the views of upper-class men.

Other scholars have gone even further in deconstructing the assumptions behind literary canons, raising very provocative questions. Paul Lauter writes that canonized works and the standards of literary excellence that we extrapolate from them validate the experience of men rather than of women, the experience of whites rather than those of people of color. He reminds us that the "formalist virtues: economy, irony, well-articulated structure . . . complexity . . . emotional restraint, and verbal sophistication" were only promulgated in this century. One must ask, he writes, "where standards come from, whose values they embody, and whose interests they serve" (Canons and Contexts, 102-5). While, as we shall see, the "formalist virtues" may be found in the work of several of these women poets, Lauter's ideas encourage us to be open to other "virtues" in their work as well. Similarly, Patrocinio Schweickart, citing Annette Kolodny, writes that we all unconsciously have learned to look at literature in a way that supports and perpetuates the male canon. It is equally important, Schweickart feels, to develop new ways of reading, new "interpretive strategies" that will help us appreciate the achievements of women's writing ("Reading Ourselves," 29). Such new interpretive strategies will be discussed later in this chapter. Tania Modleski suggests that critics "enhance the superiority of the male hero and male text . . . at the expense of the feminine" because of a Western tendency to "elevate what men do simply because men do it" (Loving with a Vengeance, 12). Narrative pleasure, she believes, is constituted differently for men and women, but, rather than investigating these differences, critics have disparaged women's narratives (32). Might Modleski's ideas apply to nineteenth-century poetry as well?

Judith Fetterley attributes much of writers' canonical status to the scholarly resources allocated to them. We know canonized American writers are great before we read them—or even if we never read them— she states, because of the "context" they have been given: "critical books and articles, scholarly biographies, exhaustive bibliographies, special and regular [conference] sessions, hundreds of discussions in hundreds of classrooms . . . government-funded standard text editions," critical contexts that women writers until very recently rarely enjoyed (Provisions, 34). Fetterley's remarks are both controversial and intriguing in relation to the Russian men and women poets under discussion and their sharply contrasting reputations and critical "contexts." Pushkin and his pleiad (among them Anton Del'vig, Evgenii Baratynsky, and Nikolai Iazykov) are considered to represent the Golden Age of Russian literature. Fedor Tiutchev and Afanasii Fet received a great deal of Soviet scholarly attention (Fet despite his "unprogressive" political views), and Mikhail Lermontov is the subject of his own encyclopedia. In contrast, until the last few decades virtually no one had heard of the women writers of this generation.32

Ultimately, the thinking of those who challenge literary canons leads us beyond the idea of expanding those canons to questioning their meaning altogether, along with definitions of the history of literature, literary periods, literary standards, the hierarchy of genres, and the very definition of literature itself.33 Although I will not attempt to address such issues, and although, I hasten to add, I do not question the importance of men writers of the Golden Age, this study to a large degree grows out of the questions that such canon studies raise. They make it possible to read with an open mind the work of writers who as yet have no critical "context"; they keep us from labeling the poetry of these women as substandard and inept simply because it differs from that of their male contemporaries. Rather, such questions encourage us to consider whether this poetry's formal and aesthetic differences (discussed in chapters 2 and 3) might not also have meaning and value.

Looking at these women's poetry through the lens of gender not only helps to explain why these poets are unknown but also offers a new perspective on the Golden Age and Romanticism in Russia. How might women poets have experienced the social and literary environments of early nineteenth-century Russia? What effects might these environments have had on their writing? Did these women use poetic devices and genres differently from men, and can we define those differences? What functions might those differences have served? Did these women in fact subscribe to a different and definable aesthetic? Such questions form a necessary basis for evaluating the work of these women poets.

My purpose in this study, then, is neither to establish a new literary canon nor to add writers to the one that presently exists; as we shall see, a great deal of theoretical and recovery work will have to be done before the canon can be reevaluated.34 Rather, I explore the poetry and poetic practices of several Russian women writers, both in their own terms and also in comparison with those of their male contemporaries. Another purpose is to show the need for critical tools ("interpretive strategies") that will allow us objectively to evaluate women's poetry in comparison to men's. I would add that on a personal level I consider these particular unknown writers well worth investigating and recovering because much of their poetry moves and excites me, and I imagine that others may find it meaningful as well.

Let us return to our first and most difficult theoretical question, one that is central to this study of unknown women's writing: How are we to evaluate these poets' work in order to determine whether they have been justly or unjustly forgotten? What criteria can we use in the absence of the "context" of critical and interpretive essays, book-length studies, biographies, reference work entries, conference sections, a place on the syllabus, and annotated critical editions of their work? Or, to put it another way, what does it mean to say that a poet is "good"?

Some critics, as mentioned in the preceding discussion, have argued that literary standards are not class, race, or gender neutral, but rather validate the experiences and tastes—defined as "universal"—of people in cultural power. It is worth considering how the experiences and tastes (aesthetics) of nineteenth-century women influenced their poetic prac-tices—and their reception by men critics.

In the next chapter we shall see what these poets shared as Russian women of their generation. Here I would like to suggest some of the more general physical, social, and metaphysical conditions they shared as nineteenth-century Western women, conditions that influenced the form and content of their work. I am not suggesting that these poets wrote differently from their male contemporaries because of some essential female difference, but rather because their raw materials—the realities and experiences of their lives—were not the same.35 Any evaluation of their work must take these differences into account.

On the physical plane, one scholar (Donovan, 102-3) has suggested that in the nineteenth century menstruation and the lack of birth control may have caused women to experience their projects as more inter-ruptible than did men. Certainly, women were expected to put aside their own activities when called upon by parents, children, spouses, brothers, and others. The interruptibility of women's lives may be reflected in the many short forms, such as lyrics and ballads, that these poets used, or, even as Elaine Showalter has suggested, some women's use of small, self-contained units to structure extended forms. Showalter compares the structure of Uncle Tom's Cabin, for example, to a quilt made of many small pieces sewn together ("Piecing and Writing," 234-37).

It also seems likely that the high infant mortality rate in the nineteenth century affected women more immediately than it did men, leading them to view and depict death differently. Tania Modleski (Loving with a Vengeance, 189) argues that while for men, as Walter Benjamin writes, death reveals meaning, for women at that time death and especially the death of a child represented the end of meaning. We shall discuss in chapter 3 these Russian women's poems about the death of children or young women, a theme that is not common in the poetry of their canonical male contemporaries.36

Also on the physical plane, Tania Modleski has made the intriguing suggestion that there might be a relationship between narrative pleasure and sexual response. She suggests that the plots of twentieth-century popular genres such as soap operas and television serials appeal to women because they are "open-ended, slow paced, and multi-climactic" (Loving with a Vengeance, 98). In contrast, the plots of hardboiled detective stories, Westerns, or "action" movies appeal to men because they have a more focused, forward thrust. It might be interesting to apply this idea to "high art" as well—to contrast, for example, the plots of Virginia Woolf's novels with the well-made play as codified by Aristotle (exposition, complication, turning point, climax, and resolution).37 Or to contrast the structure of Rostopchina's novel in verse, Dnevnik devushki (A girl's diary, 1845), with that of Pushkin's novel in verse, Evgenii Onegin.

On the social plane, all nineteenth-century women were trained to be caretakers, the overseers of a nonprogressive, repetitive, and cyclical domestic sphere defined as the complement to the male-dominated public sphere of action and accomplishment. Nineteenth-century women spent more time waiting than men, waiting for marriage, for family members to come home or leave, for pregnancies to end. And, indeed, as we shall see in chapter 3, the themes of boredom, futility, and isolation are very common in these women's poetry. On the other hand, women's isolation may have had artistic advantages. As Josephine Donovan points out, the products of women's domestic work traditionally have had use value rather than exchange value. The domestic sphere therefore remains the site of "relatively unalienated labor," with women retaining "creative control over [their] time and over the design and execution of [their] products"—principles that women could apply to their poetry as well ("Toward a Women's Poetics," 102). Or as Shari Benstock writes, women's marginal status also granted them "freedom and dispossession of existence outside the law."38 Because Russian women poets tended not to be part of groups or schools, their poetry is often unconventional or even experimental. One thinks, for example, of Iuliia Zhadovskaia's sophisticated meters and rhymes or Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia's atypically long, powerful lines.

On the metaphysical plane, women were defined as the Other, the complement of men, and the object of the male gaze in art and in life. Modleski writes of women "continually forced to look at themselves being looked at" and of the self-consciousness and desire for transcendence this engendered (Loving with a Vengeance, 111-12)—themes particularly strong in the poetry of Teplova, for example ("Vysota" [Height, 1831], "Pererozhdenie" [Rebirth, 1835], "Kogda vo vpadine okna" [When in the curve of the window, 1842], "Verbnoe voskresenie" [Palm Sunday, 1847]).39 In all Western religions women were associated with the body and temptation, a linkage that led several of these women po ets to express a more complex and uncomfortable relation with God and nature than did their male contemporaries (see chapter 2).

As for women's tastes, the scholar Anne Mellor argues that women's different experiences in the nineteenth century resulted in different artistic concerns and a different aesthetic, at least among British Romantic women writers. In contrast to Romantic male concerns with the "creative imagination .. . the achievements of genius . .. the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings," she writes, British women writers were interested in "right feeling" ("Criticism of Their Own," 30), "the workings of the rational mind" (31), joining sensibility with "correct perception" (39), and an "ethic of care" (32). Instead of celebrating "the transcendental ego standing alone," British women writers represented "a self that is fluid ... with permeable ego boundaries," one that "locates its identity in its connections with a larger human group" (31). That is, British women writers placed women's concerns (nonviolence, gender equality, education of the young) in the foreground, opposing both the patriarchal values of neoclassicism, and those of the alienated Romantic artist. Several of the Russian women poets we are considering likewise appear to have subscribed to this aesthetic. Aleksandra Fuks in her "Grecheskaia skazka" (A Greek tale, 1834) warns against the dangers to women of romantic love untempered by the rational mind. Karolina Pavlova in Dvoinaia zhizn' (A Double Life) and "Za chainym stolom" ("At the Tea Table") emphasizes the importance of educating women in rationality and accurate perception. The many poems these poets addressed to groups of friends and to family members, discussed in chapter 3, indicate a self that locates its identity in connection with larger groups.

I suspect that contemporary men critics, unfamiliar with the experiences underlying these women's poetry, found it alien and incomprehensible and therefore dismissed it as substandard.40 For example, as we shall see in chapter 3, Vissarion Belinsky, Russia's best-known critic, denigrated as rebiacheskii (puerile) a poem by Teplova in which the speaker dreads her inevitable separation from her sister in death and promises, should she die first, to return to tell her sister of her experiences. Teplova's poem, addressed to a family member and treating death as an extension of life, was typical of women's, but not men's, poetry.

Another factor in men critics' reception of these women poets was the gendering of "genius," a favorite Romantic concept, as male. The scholar Christine Battersby defines the genius as "a superior type of being who walked a sublime path . . . described in terms of male sexual energies" (Gender and Genius, 103). "To be ... a 'genius,'" Battersby writes, "the artist must be positioned by the critics at a point within that tradition that is viewed as the boundary between the old and the new ways . . . located within the (patrilineal) chains of influence and inheritance out of which 'culture' is constructed" (142)—a position never granted to women. One thinks of Belinsky's statement: "We know many women poets but not one woman genius; . . . Nature sometimes spares them a spark of talent but never gives them genius."41

Can we develop interpretive strategies for these Russian women poets based on their different, but not necessarily less important, experiences and aesthetic concerns? Scholars have begun to develop several such strategies for reading nineteenth-century British and American women's poetry that also may apply to nineteenth-century Russian women's poetry. It should be emphasized, however, that these interpretative strategies are preliminary, fragmentary, and even speculative. Alice Ostriker identifies the device of "duplicity," in which a poet "driven by something forbidden to express but impossible to repress" produces a poem that "means both what it says and its opposite" (Stealing the Language, 40). For example, Emily Dickinson's poem "I'm Nobody!" (1861) simultaneously rejects and expresses a longing for fame and power. Os-triker maintains that duplicity—doubleness of meaning—should be appreciated on aesthetic grounds, since "the highest art is that which presses most matter and spirit into least space" (41). Among the Russian poets we have mentioned, we can see an example of duplicity in Bakun-ina's "Siialo utro obnovlen'em" (The morning shone with a renewal, 1840), in which the speaker struggles to reconcile her mourning for a dead child with the religious duty to accept God's will. Similarly, in "A. S. P." (1829) Gotovtseva simultaneously expresses her awe of Pushkin's high artistic status and her anger at his depiction of women. And Khvoshchinskaia's Dzhulio (Julio, 1850) depicts an artist's drive to separate from his family in order to succeed, along with the guilt that the separation arouses.

Cheryl Walker similarly employs as an interpretive strategy nineteenth-century American women poets' ambivalence "toward the desire for power, toward their ambitions, toward their need to say, 'I am' boldly and effectively" (Nightingale's Burden, 9-10). We see such ambivalence in Kul'man's "K Anakreonu" (To Anacreon, see chapter 2), in Pavlova's introduction to Kadril' (see chapter 6), in Rostopchina's "Kak dolzhny pisat' zhenshchiny" (How women should write, see chapter 4), and many others.

Still another interpretive strategy is Sandra Gilbert's discussion of Edna St. Vincent Millay as a "female female impersonator .. . looking at herself being looked at" ("Female Female Impersonator," 298). Millay, writes Gilbert, used "the fetishized private life of the woman to comment on the public state of the world," an affirmation that "the personal is poetic" (309). This is an approach that fruitfully could be applied to the poetry of Garelina, Zhadovskaia, and Rostopchina.

In addition, literary scholars could explore the use of irony by many nineteenth-century women poets, not exuberant "Romantic irony," but, rather, irony in the dictionary sense: the use of words to express the opposite of the literal meaning.42 As men writers of the time used Aesopian (metaphorical) language to smuggle forbidden ideas past the censorship, women writers used irony to criticize the constraining circumstances of their lives. I suggest that critics, both nineteenth-century and contemporary, have remained oblivious to much of this irony because it never occurred to them not to take literally everything in women's poems, just as it did not occur to them that women might create personae (see chapter 2). We find irony in poems that warn women of the dangers of writing poetry (for example, in Teplova's "Sovet" [Advice, 1837]), throughout Pavlova's Dvoinaia zhizn', especially in the descriptions of Cecilia's upbringing and surroundings, and in much of Rostopchina's poetry (see chapter 4). These and other interpretive strategies can enrich our appreciation not only of nineteenth-century women's writing but also of men's writing. For example, Ostriker describes Milton's ambivalent depiction of Satan in Paradise Lost as an example of duplicity.

Men critics often ignored women's poetry even if it did not address women's experience. Beyond creating new ways of reading women's— and men's—poetry, is it possible to find gender-neutral, inclusive standards to evaluate men's and women's poetry together? Only in this way, to return to our third question, can we determine if these and other forgotten poets are "good." Although developing such standards will require a great deal of rethinking by aestheticians, historians, literary historians, and literary critics, the possibility of doing so is suggested by the work of one aesthetician. Tomas Kulka describes a tradition of aesthetic evaluation, based on theories of Plato and Aristotle, which analyzes art on the basis of three nongendered principles: unity, complexity, and intensity. Kulka defines unity, which he considers the most important, as the balance and harmony of a work's elements, the inner logic of its structure and style. "A perfectly unified work of art . .. can only be spoiled but not improved by alterations of its constitutive features" (Kitsch and Art, 65). He identifies complexity as concern for detail, richness, contrast, and variety. Intensity he describes as expressiveness, vitality, and vividness of presentation. "The more intensive the work, the more complex and diverse elements have been unified within its bounds, the better it is. . . . The degree of intensity can be thus conceived of as the degree of specificity or the degree of aesthetic functioning of the work's constitutive features" (46, 70-71).43 Although one can imagine many other aesthetic standards—Kulka's echo Paul Lauter's "formalist virtues" mentioned earlier in this discussion—these at least do not exclude women's art by definition. As we shall see in chapter 3, it is possible to define a major Romantic genre, the lyric, in gender-neutral terms as well. Having discussed the methodological, theoretical, and common European bases of this study let us now turn to the specific conditions these women poets experienced in Russia.

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