To be specified published in:Landscapes of Realism: Rethinking literary realism in comparative perspectives. Volume I: Mapping realism
Edited by Dirk Göttsche, Rosa Mucignat and Robert Weninger
[Comparative History of Literatures in European Languages XXXII] 2021
► pp. 503–514
Russian families, accidental and other
Realist novels were vehicles for exploring ideological battles that Russians called ‘the Woman Question.’ Questions about women’s social role (emancipated or not, maternal or not, educated or not, etc.) were tied to other questions – economic, religious, legal, and political – facing a country where institutions were ‘modernizing’ (or westernizing) with disorienting speed. Hence Dostoevsky’s characterization of the contemporary Russian household as “an accidental family.” Many realist texts raise doubts about the traditional family’s ability to sustain itself in modernity; in Turgenev’s mid-century novellas, for instance, promising young female characters are repeatedly disappointed by their weak male counterparts (“superfluous men”). Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1873–1877) implies that a woman cannot sever the bonds of marriage and stay alive, but in Khvoshchinskaya’s novella The Boarding School Girl (1861), the heroine emancipates herself from all family bonds and constructs an independent life. Tolstoy’s late novella Kreutzer Sonata (1891) goes so far as to suggest that only radical chastity, even if it leads to humanity’s extinction, can free people from the degradation and commodification that are inevitable consequences of sexual relations. As Tolstoy’s own evolution suggests, many contradictory answers were offered to the Woman Question, but as the century drew on, the tendency was toward increasing radicalism.
Keywords: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaya, Russian realism, Leo Tolstoy, ‘Woman Question’, gender roles, family novel
- 1. The Boarding School Girl : Little Lola escapes the patriarchy
- 2.“She will be nobody’s wife”: Anna Karenina’s unbreakable bonds
- 3.Accidental families and inevitable declines
Published online: 21 April 2021
Berman, Anna A.
2017 “A Chat with Anna Berman on Dostoevsky and the Family Novel [interview by Kate Holland].” North American Dostoevsky Society blog. Dated December 3, 2017. Accessed April 25, 2019. https://bloggerskaramazov.com/2017/12/04/anna-berman-dostoevsky-family-novel/
[Dostoevsky] Dostoevskii, F. M.
[Khvoshchinskaya] Khvoshchinskaia, N. D. [V. Krestovskii
Marrese, Michelle Lamarche
Pocock, J. G. A.
[Tolstoy] Tolstoi, L. N.
1928–1958 Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 90 tomakh. Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury. Accessed April 22, 2019. http://tolstoy.ru/creativity/90-volume-collection-of-the-works/