Only Among Women
Only Among Women
Only Among Women examines idealized relationships between women in Russian literature and culture from the age of the classic Russian novel to socialist realism and Stalinist film. It reveals how the idea of a community of women—a social sphere ostensibly free from the taint of money, sex, or self-interest—originates in the classic Russian novel, fuels mystical notions of unity in turn-of-the-century modernism, and finally assumes a place of privilege in Stalinist culture, especially cinema.
Rethinking the significance and surprising continuities of gender in Russian and Soviet culture, Eakin Moss relates this tradition to Western philosophies of community developed by thinkers from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Jean-Luc Nancy. She shows that in the 1860s friendship among women came to figure as an organic national collectivity in works such as Tolstoy’s War and Peace and a model for revolutionary organization in Chernyshevsky’s What Is To Be Done?.
Only Among Women also traces how women’s community came to be connected with new religious and philosophical notions of a unity transcending the individual at the fin-de-siècle. Finally, in Stalinist propaganda of the 1930s, the notion of women’s community inherited from the Russian novel reemerged in the image of harmonious female workers serving as a patriarchal model for loyal Communist citizenship.
“This book is a fascinating, mature, and thoughtful study of the ways in which women characters and women’s communities figure in the Russian imagination. It demonstrates how central women and the idea of women have been to the ways primarily male Russian writers, thinkers, and film directors have conceived of society across almost a century.” —Angela Brintlinger, author of Writing a Usable Past: Russian Literary Culture, 1917–1937
"This extraordinarily erudite and insightful book provides a new understanding of one of the crucial Russian cultural topoi. From Chernyshevsky and Tolstoy in the 1860s to Soviet cinema of the 1930s, idealized women’s community has often been viewed as an emblem of humanity and a paradigmatic embodiment of the so-called 'Russian Idea.' However, as Eakin Moss demonstrates, the age of modernism yielded an alternative vision of womanhood, one stripped of idealistic belief in the essential goodness of the 'eternal feminine' and reduced to immanence. Understanding Russian thought, culture, and politics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries requires a thorough comprehension of both the idealistic and the modernist paradigms in a variety of dialectical permutations. Ambitious, well researched, and elegantly written, Eakin Moss’s book is indispensable reading for anyone interested in the complexity and range of Russian ideas." —Lina Steiner, author of For Humanity’s Sake: The Bildungsroman in Russian Culture