Ideals of womanhood in the literature of Finland and Russia 1894-1914
This study is a literary critical examination of the portrayal of woman in prose and drama, with reference to the themes of political and artistic rebirth which preoccupied writers in Finland and Russia at the turn of the century. The study falls into three sections, each of which represents an aspect of woman's metaphysical condition and for which I have used the categories Action, Voice,a nd Visibility. The first section assesses writers' approach to the issues raised by the woman question, and describes the cultivation of an ideal of politically active, nationally loyal womanhood in the image of the Madonna. The second section demonstrates that woman's silence, a dominant feature of her characterization, signifies both the danger of revolution and the prescription for her social integration. It also includes an analysis of the opportunities and consequences of self-expression for female characters and writers. The third section deals with the view of woman as an embodiment of artistic impulse, especially her idealization as muse, and addresses the issue of pornography in the representation of the female form. The comparison between the two literatures explores the respective national ambitions as well as the concept of the 'new woman'. The image of woman is influenced by contemporary theory of her nature and social function. The literatures contrast most notably in the relationship of the Madonna-like saviour to the political hero, and of the muse to the artist. In Russia, the historic mission of nation and artist is imbued with universal and eternal significance. In Finland, it relates to the immediate, localized ambitions of national selfdetermination. Woman is shown to have a central place in both countries in the process of political and artistic renewal. However, the ideal of womanhood plays upon preconceptions of femininity which preclude the notion of woman's equality and independence at the root of feminist thought. The limitations on woman's existence are observable in the elements of silence and pornography which affect her characterization, erasing her subjective identity and promoting her objectification.