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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


SL 19th Century

SL 19th Century: Literature and Society in 19th-century Russia and Eastern Europe

Course Convenor: Dr Anna Berman (, Section of Slavonic Studies

In 1861 the radical critic Dmitri Pisarev proclaimed the close interrelationship between Russia’s literature and the social concerns of the period, arguing that “the whole sum of ideas about society, about the human personality, about social and family relations, is concentrated in belles lettres and in the criticism of belles lettres; we do not have an independent moral philosophy, we do not have a social science, and so we must look for all of this in literary works.”  In 2023 this module explores the relationship between literature and the rapidly evolving society in Russia from the 1840s-1880s. Particular focus will be given to the shifting roles of women and their place in literature, both as a central concern for male authors and as authors in their own right. Related to the “woman question” are the changes that were taking place in the Russian family during this period.  How did anxieties about shifting gender roles and redefined kinship allegiances shape the literature?  How were Western ideals reshaped in the Russian context?

Reading knowledge of Russian recommended.

There will normally be a maximum capacity of 14 for this module.


Preliminary Reading

Engel, Barbara Alpern. Breaking the Ties That Bound: The Politics of Marital Strife in Late Imperial Russia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011.

---. Mothers and Daughters: Women of the Intelligentsia in Nineteenth-Century Russia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Grigoryan, Bella. Noble Subjects: The Russian Novel and the Gentry, 1762-1861. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2018.

Heldt, Barbara. Terrible Perfection: Women and Russian Literature. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987.

Kelly, Catriona. Refining Russia: Advice Literature, Polite Culture, and Gender from Catherine to Yeltsin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Lounsbery, Anne. Life is Elsewhere: Symbolic Geography in the Russian Provinces, 1800-1917. Ithaca: Northern Illinois University Press, 2020.

Pushkareva, Natalia. Women in Russian History: From the Tenth to the Twentieth Century, Trans. Eve Levin. Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1997.

Smith, Alison. For the Common Good and Their Own Well-Being: Social Estates in Imperial Russia. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Stites, Richard. The Women’s Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism, and Bolshevism, 1860-1930 - Expanded Edition. Princeton University Press, 2021.

Todd, William Mills. Literature and Society in Imperial Russia 1800-1914. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1978.

Wagner, William G. Marriage, Property, and Law in Late Imperial Russia. Oxford; New York: Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press, 1994.

Wirtschafter, Elise Kimerling. Social Identity in Imperial Russia. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1997.


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