Released from Her Fetters?

Natural Equality in the Work of the Russian Sentimentalist Woman Writer Mariia Bolotnikova

in Aspasia

This contribution examines the ways in which Sentimentalist ideas about natural equality, which circulated in Russia during the first two decades of the nineteenth century, were reflected in the work of a little-known woman author, Mariia Bolotnikova (dates of birth and death unknown). By exploring the democratic potential inherent in Sentimentalist discourse, this article suggests that the Sentimentalists' unconditional valuation of all human beings was applied not only to the problem of serfdom, but also to women's social inequality. This tendency manifested itself in the works of renowned male writers such as Nikolai Karamzin (1766–1826), and in those of little-known female authors, such as Mariia Bolotnikova. A provincial woman poet with seemingly few contacts to established literary society, Bolotnikova used Sentimentalism's fascination with nature and femininity to legitimise her activity as an author and to emphasise the woman question. Her criticism of the sexual discrimination that shaped the culture in which she lived was an early, if admittedly small, step towards the creation of awareness of the social inequality of the sexes in Russia.

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Aspasia

The International Yearbook of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern European Women's and Gender History