Anna Bunina (1774-1829), and the Origins of Women's Poetry in Russia

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This is the first extensive study of Bunina's poems and detailed exploration of her life, using archives and numerous periodicals. It describes the cultural expectations which Bunina challenged, her poetic unconventional lyric persona, her strategic choices of poetic language and genre, the reception of her work, and her unprecedented success in living by the pen. It illuminates the pre-history of feminism and the feminine literary tradition in Russian through the reflections on gender and writing of the most radical and gifted of the early women writers.


“Alongside the richness in biographical details, Rosslyn’s book lavishly reproduces Bunina’s poems and passages from her essays. . . . Rosslyn’s bibliography will also be of great value to students both of Russian literature and of history since it covers widely issues relating to the education, culture and life of Russia’s privileged classes in the first half of the nineteenth century.” – Irish Slavonic Studies

"A masterpiece of biographical and literary scholarship, Wendy Rosslyn's Anna Bunina (1774-1829) and the Origins of Women's Poetry in Russia is a seminal and definitive work that would be a valued addition to any Russian studies and Russian literary library collection." - The Midwest Book Review

“In addition to biographical detail and literary analysis the book also provides important insights into the position of women in an understudied period of Russian literature. . . .Besides the clear merit of providing the only comprehensive biography of Anna Bunina to date, this book also offers the first exhaustive investigation of her work. The analysis of Bunina’s oeuvre (underpinned by long quotations which are extremely useful given the lack of a complete modern edition of the author’s work) reveals the originality of a poet able to draw inspiration from both the Classical and Romantic tradition in the creation of her specific poetic persona.” – Journal of European Studies

“Wendy Rosslyn is to be congratulated. Her work is comprehensively researched, capably constructed and lucidly expressed. It should appeal equally to those broadly interested in Russia of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and to those concerned particularly with Russian women’s studies. . . . the book contains much information of a socio-cultural nature, providing an insight into the way life was lived and literature created, in Russia two hundred years ago.” – New Zealand Slavonic Journal

“It is a model of clarity and lucidity: arguments are carefully weighed, evidence scrupulously examined before assessments are made. It is utterly thorough in its painstaking research. . . . the book is far more than a biography; it is a virtual mini-encylopaedia of the position of women in Russia at the time. . . . There is also much information on other women writers, notably Pospelova, Kulman, and Volkova, as well as Bunina’s predecessors. Equally impressive are the accounts of patronage, the burgeoning literary market, and the financing of literature. As a result, Rosslyn’s work will stand as an excellent resource for future investigation.” – Modern Language Review “Rosslyn’s fastidiously factual, yet highly thoughtful, volume is a must for specialists in women’s writing or in nineteenth-century Russian poetry and culture, as well as an excellent choice for undergraduate courses in women’s studies or Russian literature and culture.” – South Atlantic Review

“It will attract a wide audience, including those interested in women writers, social and cultural conditions in Russia at the beginning of the nineteenth century, conservative literary figures and, more narrowly, the circle of A. S. Shishkov. Because Rosslyn provides translations of quotations from Russian sources, including Bunina’s poems, it makes Bunina accessible to scholars of all backgrounds.” – Canadian Slavonic Papers

"In spite of a dearth of primary sources, which necessarily compels Rosslyn (Univ. of Nottingham, UK) to resort to qualifiers such as "seems," "perhaps," "probably," "maybe," etc., this is a remarkably complete and sympathetic portrait of a woman plagued by sickness, poverty, misfortune, and the bad luck of being a woman poet in an age dominated by male writers. To her credit, the author also admits to Bunina's difficult personality and does not refrain from revealing her very human flaws. Using a moderate feminist approach, Rosslyn presents a good account of the difficulties facing women writers in early-19th-century Russia--especially trivialization of their works and assassination of their characters. Though not of the first rank, Bunina's poetry nevertheless deserves study. Rosslyn is on solid ground when she turns to literary analysis; her competent, knowledgeable readings of the poetry comprise the strongest part of the book. The subject is quite specialized, so the book is appropriate for upper-level undergraduates and more advanced scholars, especially those interested in the history of Russian literature, the art of biography, and women's literature." - CHOICE

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The Years of Emotional Grief (1774-1802)

Chapter 2: Forays into the Literary World (1802-08)

Chapter 3: The Inexperienced Muse (1809)

Chapter 4: The Pitfalls of Patronage (1810)

Chapter 5: The Fall of Phaethon (1811)

Chapter 6: Racing with Bound Feet (1811-15)

Chapter 7: A Distant Acquaintance of Happiness (1815-17)

Chapter 8: Last Years in Petersburg (1817-24)

Chapter 9: On Her Deathbed (1824-29)

Chapter 10: Epilogue



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