Russia Through Women's Eyes


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Autobiographies from Tsarist Russia

Edited by Toby W. Clyman and Judith Vowles

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Nineteenth-century Russia has been known to the West mainly through the writings of men. Russian women, however, were far from silent and have left vivid testimony about their families, their education, their careers, and their country. This collection presents, for the first time in English, the lives of eleven remarkable Russian women as told in their own words.

These autobiographies span the century and cover a wide range of classes and professions. Among the authors are women of the gentry (Natalia Grot), the merchant class (Aleksandra Kobiakova), the lower bureaucracy (Praskovia Tatlina), and the serf class (Liubov Nikulina-Kositskaia). They include writers (Elizaveta Lvova, Anastasia Verbitskaia), a journalist (Emilia Pimenova), an actress in the provincial theater (Liubov Nikulina-Kositskaia), and two physicians (Varvara Kashevarova-Rudneva, Ekaterina Slanskaia)—one the first woman to earn a medical degree in Russia, the other a doctor in the slums of St. Petersburg. Their memoirs show their fierce engagement in the debate over woman's nature, her duties and responsibilities, her upbringing, and her place in society.

Each autobiography is introduced and annotated by Toby Clyman and Judith Vowles, who also provide a general introduction that situates these writings within the Russian and Western autobiographical traditions.

Toby Clyman is professor of Russian at the State University of New York, Albany. Judith Vowles is co-editor of Sexuality and the Body in Russian Culture and translator of The Life and Work of Simon Dubnov.

"Through this selection of published but previously untranslated nineteenth-century autobiographies . . . [the editors] provide readers with a glimpse of the lives of Russian women in different social classes. . . . An excellent introduction to the history of Russian autobiography."—Library Journal

"This is a fascinating collection, social history as experienced by women from various backgrounds. . . . Operating on many levels, this is a political, human and moving project which leads us back to a forgotten past."— Eileen Battersby, Image

"By providing a platform for the female perspective in Russian autobiographical literature, Russia Through Women's Eyes performs an important and much neglected service."—John O'Mahony, Moscow Times

"A rich, gripping, not to say spine-chilling book."—Hilary Spurling, Daily Telegraph

"With the publication of Russia Through Women's Eyes scholars now have a wonderful new anthology that can help bring to life the culture and history of imperial Russia. . . . [This book] deserves a wide audience. The memoirs reveal the struggles that Russian women and men faced in their attempts to live full and complete lives. This anthology would make an excellent text for any course dealing with nineteenth-century imperial Russia."—Christine Ruane, Slavic Review

"The book fills a gap, and should provide interesting reading material for courses in Russian culture, women's studies, and the history of autobiography."—Nancy L. Cooper, Russian Review

"It is a pleasure to welcome this anthology which provides us with a taste of nineteenth-century Russian women's autobiographical writing. . . . This publication is recommended to all readers interested in problems of autobiography, women writers, and prose narrative, and to all those simply interested in some delightful and fascinating reading."—Jane Gary Harris, Slavic and East European Journal

"Clyman and Vowles are to be commended for making available this eminently readable collection. It is well-suited for, and will undoubtedly be very popular in, comparative courses on life-writing and in Women's studies; and it is a valuable resource for expanding the curriculum beyond the usual male masters in Russian literature as well."—Susan Ingram, Canadian Slavonic Papers

"Russia Through Women's Eyes is a superb accomplishment in almost every way. It not only complements the existing Russian women's autobiographical literature in translation, but becomes a major contribution to the study of Russian autobiography in general and women's social history in particular. It highlights women's relationships to their families and society in the changing political, economic, social, and cultural climate of nineteenth-century Russia, and women's resistance to social suppression and male authority. Clyman's and Vowels' anthology emphasizes the plurality and richness of women's voices and the act of autobiography as a liberating gesture in the struggle for emancipation. Unquestionably, Russia Through Women's Eyes is an outstanding collaborative project of excellent scholars and translators dedicated to the study of women's autobiographies."—Larissa Rudova, Biography

"This is a wonderful book. It will be an asset to Russian history and literature courses and, additionally, will be informative—even inspirational—for the general reader. . . . This anthology is more than 'gender and genre.' It weaves a rich, colorful tapestry of Russian life in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, highlighting aspects of the prerevolutionary period that may be unfamiliar even to the seasoned scholar."—Mary Schaeffer Conroy, Historian

"[This book] is an exciting collection of stories which will be of great interest to students of Russian history, literature and women’s studies."—Alexandra Smith, New Zealand Slavonic Journal

"This fascinating collection of autobiographical writings brings the stories of 19th-century women to the west for the first time in English. . . . Their memoirs show a fierce engagement in the debate over woman’s nature, her duties and responsibilities, her upbringing, and her place in society."—Translation Review

"This anthology provides a valuable and much-needed primary source for students of Russian culture and history as well as students in women's studies."—Beth Holmgren, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

"[An] excellent volume. . . . In addition to their careful, informative introduction, the editors contextualize each memoir with a biographical and interpretive preface. Together with good footnotes, a bibliographic note for each work with sources in English and a select bibliography of Russian sources and English translations make the memoirs very accessible to a broad audience. . . . I found [the book] hard to put down."—Hilde Hoogenboom, Comparative Literature Studies

ISBN: 9780300067538
Publication Date: November 27, 1996
408 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
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