Kirsi Räisälä: Research Plan and Bibliography

Representing Women’s Experiences of the Great Patriotic War –
Gender, Memory and Trauma in Soviet Russian Women Writers’ War Novels

Table of Contents
1. Research Topic and Main Research Questions
2. Significance of the Research
3. Material
4. Methodology
5. Financial Plan and Study Objectives
6. Bibliography

1. Research Topic and Main Research Questions
My Ph.D. research explores Soviet-Russian female writer’s war novels from the 1970s until the 1990s. Keywords of my study are war, gender, memory and experience. I will focus on the representations of women’s experience of war in the novels. I will look into the questions and connections of war and gender on the textual level in the close readings of the primary material as well as a significant aspect in the genre of war literature.

All topics of my study, war, trauma, memory and experience will be explored from the gender perspective. Representations of trauma and experience of war are highly gendered and studying them offers us significant information about the symbolic language of war. In my study trauma bounds together war and experience – war is most often described as a violent and traumatic experience. Memory is connected to the formation and working through of a traumatic experience and literary texts also participate in this process. In my study I will look for the points and representations that underline, or challenge the abundantly gendered discourses of war. I will ask what makes war such a gendered experience and how women’s experiences of war are represented in war literature and in people’s minds.

My three main research questions are:

1. How women’s experiences of war are represented in Soviet-Russian female writer’s war novels?
2. How does gender relate to experience, memory and trauma?
3. What is the position of my primary material in relation to war novels written by female writers earlier and in the context of the canon of war literature?

The hypothesis of my research concerns the highly gendered representations of war, and the experience of war. War is a gendering activity that underlines gender differences in culture and encourages polarized interpretations of gender. Not only in Russian and Soviet societies women’s presence and experiences in war have been particularly difficult to deal with. I claim that in Russian women’s writing the 1970s was a starting point for a change in the representations of women’s experience of war, being also a part of larger cultural and sociological changes, perestroika and glasnost. However, these new representations (narration from women’s point of view, descriptions of women’s life on the home front etc.) were never introduced to large audiences and the cultural representations of Soviet women in the Second World War are persistently referring to the Soviet images.

2. Significance of the Research
The annual celebrations of the end of the Second World War in Russia point out that the Great Patriotic War still has a central role in modern Russian culture. The World War II is considered the most crucial moment in the history of the nation. My study does not only ask the important question of what has happened to the recollection and perceptions of World War II during the decades after the war, but investigates the topic from a new point of view by emphasizing the importance of gender in the formation of the nation’s memory of the war. I also want to point out that there has not yet been a study that would have brought together Soviet-Russian women’s war novels and analyzed them from the gender perspective in the context of experience, trauma and memory.

In the Soviet Union it was especially literature, which played the significant role in constructing the mythical image of the Great Patriotic War, but it also had great importance in bringing forward some of the most sensitive issues connected to war. Right after the war a few Soviet female writers’ novels about war were acknowledged and awarded, like for example, Vera Panova for her book The Troop Train (Sputniki) in 1947 and Galina Nikolaeva for her novel The Harvest (Zhatva) in 1950. But even though popular and acknowledged, they were never included in the core of the canon with works of such writers as Konstantin Simonov, Nikolai Nekrasov, Grigory Baklanov, Viktor Astafev, Vasily Bykov and many others. However, women writer’s war novels from the 1970s to the 1990s have been notably more marginal compared to these two examples from the time right after the war.

By focusing on literary representations my study will bring new perspectives to the theme of women’s experience in war and it will construct the collective memory of women’s wartime experiences as they are represented in Soviet-Russian women’s war narratives. My study will complement and discuss with the research that has been done on women’s war literature in other than Russian context.

On a large scale, my study participates in the ongoing process of rewriting women’s history. In the 1980s the question of women’s participation and experience in the Second World War became actual. In Russia Svetlana Alekseevich first tackled the theme of women’s participation in war in her book War Does Not Have a Woman’s Face (1984). She noted that it was the last moment to interview the generation of women that experienced the Second World War.

3. Material
I will assemble and analyze war novels written by Soviet-Russian female writers and published between 1970s and the beginning of 1990s. These decades were a transition period in the Soviet-Russian society and culture. During this time the literary world in Russia saw among other things the boom of women’s writing, that introduced people to the depiction of women’s every-day life. Many of the novels included in my primary material, for example Natalya Baranskaya’s Remembrance Day (Den’ Pominovenija) and I. Grekova’s Ship of Widows (Vdovyi parohod), are related to the women’s every-day life literature. They use the same methods and strategies to depict women’s life during the war.

The representation of women’s life in the time of war was, and still is a delicate topic. Baranskaya’s Remembrance Day was written in the 1970s, but because of censorship published only in the end of 1980s. The chosen time span is also connected to memory and memorizing as well. Victoria Stewart writes that a traumatic experience is usually followed by a period of latency in remembering to enable to cope with the trauma right after the event. From the point of view of representing women’s experiences in war it can be argued that the time between 1970s and 1990s was the end of the period of latency of the women’s war trauma when it became possible to handle the events and experiences more broadly and from new perspectives.

The primary material of my research includes women’s war novels published between 1970s and 1990s that deal with women’s experiences in the Second World War. I will concentrate on the following texts:

1. Natalya Baranskaya (1989): Den’ Pominovenija
2. Elena Rzhevskaya: Fevral’ – kryvye dorogi (1975), Dalekyi gul’ (1988)
3. I. Grekova: Vdovyj Parohod (1981)
4. E. Kaplinskaya: Ne pokypaite korovy, esli ne umeete ee doit’ (1993)
5. I. Velembovskaya: Vse prohodit (1990)
6. Marija Konisskaya: Zlye gody (1992)

The list of primary material will be completed by the end of 2007.

4. Methodology
In my work will apply to Judith Butler’s gender performativity and define gender as: “an identity tenuously constituted in time – an identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts. Further, gender is instituted through the stylization of body and, hence, must be understood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements and enactments of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self.” Butler’s performative gender indicates that beyond the masks of gender performance there is no “true” gender. In the context of war, I believe that this definition allows and encourages us to more mobile understanding of gender.

I will also apply Mikhail Bakhtin’s concepts and ideas about dialogism to distinguish different planes of dialogue in the primary material, first of which is the social and cultural dimension of dialogue assuming that every novel (an utterance) is taking part in a conversation with other representatives of the genre (war literature / women’s war literature) and also in a wider cultural dialogue. Second, I will pay attention to the conversations between the heroines of the novels. In addition to this, the individual stories of each heroine form a dialogue between the self and war. The last two planes of dialogue appear on the textual level of the fictive worlds of the novels, on the contrary to the social and cultural dimensions of dialogue that I look into mostly through the genre of war literature.

For analyzing memory and trauma I will employ Dominick LaCapra’s concepts of acting out and working through, and focus on the points in common for dialogue, memory and trauma. I argue that silence, crying, dialogue, memory and memorizing can be interpreted as tools for working through of a traumatic experience in the novels.

5. Financial Plan and Study Objectives
The research is planned for four years and it will be carried out at the Department of Modern Languages and Translation Studies (Slavonic Philology) at the University of Tampere under the supervision of Prof. Arja Rosenholm.

The research is financed by a three-year grant (2007–2010) awarded by the Emil Aaltonen Foundation as part of the post-doctoral research group “Writing Themselves: Generation, Identity and the Body in the Russian and Polish Women’s Literature”, led by Dr. Marja Rytkönen.

Year / Objectives
2007–2008 / Completing the list of primary material, primary reading. Developing theoretical background of the research. Participation in two seminars organized by the project group (October and March). Publishing two articles.
2008–2009 / Analyses of the primary material. Writing and publishing two articles
2009–2010 / Writing the analysis, answering the research questions. First version of the thesis ready by the end of the year.
2010–2011 / Proposed changes, language check. Final version of the doctoral thesis completed by the end of the year.

6. Bibliography
Theoretical Literature
Bakhtin, M. M. 1937-1938: Forms of Time and of the Choronotope in the Novel: Notes toward a Historical Poetics. The Dialogic Imagination. Ed. M. Holquist. University of Texas Press. Austin.
Bakhtin, M. M.1978:”The Forms of Time and Chronotopes in the Novel: From Greek Novel to Modern Fiction”. PTL: A Journal for Descriptive Poetics and Theory of Literature. 3, 493-528.
Bakhtin, M. M. 1984: Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. Ed. and translated by Caryl Emerson. Manchester University Press. Manchester.
Butler, Judith 1988: Performative Acts and Gender Institution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory. Theatre Journal, vol. 40, No. 4. Dec. 1988:519-531.
Butler, Judith 2006: Gender Trouble. Routledge. New York. 2006.
Caruth, Cathy 1996: Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore and London.
Clark, K. 1981: The Soviet Novel. History as Ritual. The University of Chicago.Press. Chicago,
Cook, G. 1994: Discourse and Literature: The Interplay of Form and Mind. Oxford University Press. Oxford.
Van Dijk, Teun A. (Ed.) 1985: The Handbook of Discourse Analysis. Vol.1. Academic Press, Inc. London, San Diego, New York, Austin, Boston, Orlando, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto.
Foucault, M. 1972: The Archaeology of Knowledge. Routledge. London.
Fowler, A. 1982: Kinds of Literature. An introduction to the Theory of Genres and Modes.
Clarendon.Press. Oxford.
Gernhart, M. 1992: Genre Choises, Gender Questions. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
LaCapra, Dominick 2001: Writing History, Writing Trauma. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore and London.
Pratt, Annis 1982: Archetypal Patterns in Women’s Fiction. Harvester Press, Brighton.
Vice, Sue 1997: Introducing Bakhtin. Manchester University Press. New York.
Yuval-Davis, Nira 1997: Gender and Nation. Sage, London.
Literature Related to the Research Topic:
Alpern Engel, Barbara 2004: Women in Russia, 1700-2000. Cambridge University Press.Cambridge.
Ashwin, Sarah (Ed.) 2000: Gender, State and Society in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. Routledge. London, New York
Barker, Adele Marie 1999: Consuming Russia: Popular Culture, Sex, and Society since Gorbachev. Duke University Press, Durham, NC and London.
Barker, Adele Marie 2002: A History of Women’s Writing in Russia. Ed. Adele Marie Barker. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Bourke Joanna 1999: An Intimate History of Killing: Face-to-Face Killing in Twentieth Century Warfare. Granta, UK.
Bourke Joanna 2001: The Second World War: A People’s History. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Campbell, D’Ann 1993: Women in Combat: The World War II Experience in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and the Soviet Union. The Journal of Military History, Vol.57, No. 2, 301-323.
Dombrowski, Nicole Ann (Ed.) 1999: Women and War in the Twentieth Century. Garland Publishing, New York, London.
Elshtain, Jean Bethke 1995: Women and War. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, London.
Etkind, Alexander 2004: “Hard and Soft in Cultural Memory: Political Mourning in Russia and Germany. Grey Room. Special Issue: Memory/History/Democracy. 16, 36-59.
Felman Shoshana 1989: Women and Madness: the Critical Phallacy. The Feminist Reader. Essays in Gender and the Politics of Literary Criticism. Ed. Catherine Belsey and Jane Moore. MacMillan. London.
Gleeson-White Sarah 2003: Strange Bodies. Gender and Identity in the Novels of Carson McCullers. The University of Alabama Press. Tuscaloosa, London.
Goldstein, Joshua S. 2001: War and Gender. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Hirsch, Marianne 1989: The Mother/Daughter Plot. Narrative. Psychoanalysis, Feminism. Indiana Unversity Press.
Holmgren, Beth 2003: The Russian Memoir. History and Literature. Northwestern University Press, Evanston, IL.
Kelly, Catriona 1994: A History of Russian Women’s Writing 1820-1992. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
Langer, L. 1991: Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory. Yale University Press, New Haven.
Marsh, Rosalind 1995: History and Literature in Contemporary Russia. MacMillan, Oxford.
Marsh, Rosalind (Ed.) 1996: Women in Russia and Ukraine. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.
Mascha+Nina+Katjusha, Frauen in der Roten Armee 1941-1945 Женщины-военнослужащие. 2002. Deutsch-Russisches Museum. CH.LINKS VERLAG, Germany.
Peltonen, Ulla-Maija 2003: Muistamisen paikat: vuoden 1918 sisällissodan muistamisesta ja unohtamisesta. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, Helsinki.
Rytkönen, Marja 2004: About the Self and Time. Tampere University Press, Tampere.
Stewart, Victoria 2003: Women’s Autobiography: War and Trauma. Palgrave Macmillan. New York.
Stockdale, Melissa K. 2004: My Death for the Motherland Is Happiness: Women, Patriotism, and Soldiering in Russia’s Great War, 1914-1917. American Historical Review, Feb. 2004, 78-116.
Wood, Elizabeth 1997: The Baba and the Comrade. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indianapolis.