Pure, Strong and Sexless

The Peasant Woman’s Body and Gleb Uspensky


Pure, Strong and Sexless explores the representation of gender and sexuality of peasant women in turn of the century Russian culture through the writings of populist writer Gleb Uspensky. Uspensky’s numerous works address a range of issues related to sexuality, including infanticide, abortion, prostitution, adultery and venereal disease. This is the first comprehensive study of populist’s fantasies in regard to the peasant woman’s body as a non-sexed utopian body within Russian fin-de-siecle sexual discourse. Included in this book is the first English translation of the diary of Uspensky’s psychiatrist, Dr Boris Sinani. This frank account portrays the tragic decline of a sensitive observer and writer into the psychotic and delusionary world of schizophrenia. This work is an invaluable source for students of Russian literature, gender studies, and history of psychiatry.

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Review Quotes

"…Mondry’s excellent book […] is to be warmly welcomed." – in: The Russian Review 66/3 (2007) "…a compelling picture of [Uspenskii]…" – in: Modern Language Review 102/3 (2007) "…a provocative interpretation of Gleb Ivanovich Uspenskii’s writings that warrants attention…" – in: Canadian Slavonic Papers XLIX/1-2 (2007)

Table of contents

Introduction Chapter 1: “Daydreams”: the quest for social gender changes or a new type of beauty? Chapter 2: “In a Woman’s Position”: truncated sexuality in young women and teenage boys Chapter 3: How ‘straight’ is the Venus de Milo? Shaping gender in stone sculpture Chapter 4: “A Good Russian type”: in search of a new masculinity Chapter 5: Peasant sexuality and demonic possession Chapter 6: “She Stopped!”: moral rebirth through hard labor Chapter 7: Children: necessary evil or product of divine will? Chapter 8: The sacred egg: a symbol of human procreation Chapter 9: The final testimony: “Peasant Women” Conclusion Appendix: The Diary of Doctor B. N. Sinani: a record of Gleb Uspensky’s illness Translator’s introduction by Henrietta Mondry Preface to the Diary by publisher Vladimir Bonch-Bruevich The Diary of Doctor B. N. Sinani Bibliography Index

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