Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Female Crime Writers in Late Imperial Russia: The Cases of Aleksandra Sokolova and Kapitolina Nazar’eva

Fri31  Mar04:30pm(15 mins)
Main Building Room 132


Claire Whitehead1
1 University of St Andrews, UK


This paper discusses works of crime fiction authored by women during the late imperial era in Russia (1860-1917). Although pre-revolutionary Russian crime fiction has received greater critical attention over the past decade, the focus remains primarily on male writers and their work. However, the same conditions in the literary marketplace that allowed such popular genres to flourish also opened the door to female writers, of both literary fiction and journalism. Two significant figures in the history of female crime writing are Aleksandra Sokolova (1833-1914) and Kapitolina Nazar’eva (1847-1900). An analysis of works such as Sokolova’sБездна (1890) and Из-за могилы (1891) as well as Nazar’eva’s В когтях нищеты and Из огня, да вполымя (both 1884) demonstrates how generic hybridity is a cornerstone of their approach to crime writing. The interweaving in these works of elements of the society tale, the family novel, the romance genre, the psychological novel functions as a challenge to some of the more conventional male-authored crime fiction of the time. Such works also provide a distinct perspective on the functioning of the reformed legal system and its attitude towards female characters within the structures of the country’s patriarchal system.