Bodies of evidence: the depiction of violence against female characters in late imperial Russian crime fiction

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Abstract

This article examines the depiction of violence perpetrated against female victims in Russian crime fiction from the late imperial era (1866-1917). It discusses works by Nikolai Timofeev, Aleksandr Shkliarevskii and Andrei Zarin in which the violence perpetrated against women is not edited out but is described in considerable and striking detail. The article reads both the acts of violence and their literary-fictional portrayal as a reflection of the gender relations operating in patriarchal society at the time and, more specifically, the disenfranchised position of women within the institution of the family. We examine the use of abject and extreme realism in these descriptions as a means of expressing the dehumanization of women that is both a catalyst for, and a consequence of, gendered violence. However, although the use of such realism might imply a criticism of the circumstances that permit violence against female characters, a detailed examination of the specific diegetic terms used by male narrators and focalisors suggests a more ambivalent situation. This discussion of the depiction of violence consequently argues for a revision of the conventionally positive interpretation of the legal reforms enacted in 1860s Russia and of their male enforcers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalModern Languages Open
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2023

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