A Woman’s lot: realism and gendered narration in Russian women’s writing of the 1860s

Margarita Vaysman*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article examines the issue of realist literary narration portrayed as male privilege in Russian women’s writing of the 1860s, specifically in Avdot’ia Panaeva’s novel Zhenskaia dolia (A Woman’s Lot). Zhenskaia dolia was published in 1862, under Panaeva’s male pen name Nikolai Stanitskii, and, taking advantage of this indeterminacy of gender, Panaeva’s narrator alternated between its male and a female narrative personas. I argue that Panaeva used this self-consciously transgressive narrative voice to challenge the gendered aesthetic conventions of contemporary relist writing. Employing the theory of ‘narrative transvestism’, this article demonstrates how Panaeva’s narrator borrowed the male voice of authority, at the same time exposing its limitations. In A Woman’s Lot, Panaeva discussed the subject of realist narration in a wider framework of male privilege in society and the arts, negotiating her text’s problematic status as a realist narrative created by a woman writer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-245
Number of pages16
JournalRussian Review
Issue number2
Early online date1 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Russian Realism
  • Women writers
  • Gender
  • Novel
  • Narrative
  • Queer theory


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