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Abstract Ramona Mihaila

Canonical reconsideration of 19th-century Romanian women writers

The second half of the 19th century in Romania was a time of unprecedented change and emancipation for Romanian women in regard to political engagement, legal status, access to higher education, and their entrance into the professions and public life. In addition, their visibility in the professional world of literature and arts enabled them to start forging a tradition of their own. The present article recovers and explores the work of a number of completely neglected Romanian women writers. It assesses their achievement by examining the cultural impact they had on the changing social status of women in the late 19th century as well as on the diversification and the reshaping of women’s lives.

The late 19th century saw Romanian society slowly modernizing from an agrarian economy to a capitalist one, and the analysis of women’s status at this time is mirrored in the literary field by the female character’s ascension during the transition from romanticism to realism. In the interaction of fiction and reality, this article identifies the mechanisms through which a cultural identity fictionally constructs itself and destabilizes the limits of social identities and stereotypes in constructing female characters which result from social prejudices on one hand and the persistence of the romantic elements on the other. The identity constructions are analyzed not only in comparison with the women’s social status and the fictional typologies of female characters, but also with the conventions of literary genres such as the short story, the novel, and the historical writings.

The present article focuses not only on the writings of canonical writers (Sofia Nadejde, Adela Xenopol) but also on a number of writers who were neglected by critics, like Eugenia Ianculescu de Reuss, Constanta Hodos, Bucura Dumbrav?, Emilia Lungu, Constanta Marino-Moscu, Smaranda Gheorghiu; or those who wrote their work in foreign languages, for example, Martha Bibescu, Elena V?c?rescu, Dora d’Istria (Elena Ghika) and the queens, Carmen Sylva (Elisabeth of Wied) and Marie of Romania (Marie Alexandra Victoria, previously Princess Marie of Edinburgh).

AsK, October 2012

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