Title

Ludmila Petrushevskaya’s The Time: Night: The Theme of the Unfit Mother in Post-Soviet Russia

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

Post-Soviet Russia was a nation gripped by uncertainty, as profound political, economic, and social changes ensued. One such change was a dramatic increase in the instances of mothers who conceived out of wedlock. Research conducted in the late 1990's showed that this jump in birth rates to unwed mothers was largely comprised of undereducated, impoverished, and often teenage women who were fully reliant on family members. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a strained and unpleasant image of motherhood began to surface in Russia’s great literary tradition, which was in stark contrast to male-authored depictions of motherhood in years prior. I argue that in observation of the disparity between the male-authored portrayal of Russian motherhood and reality, the theme of the bad mother emerges in the works of female writers.

This paper focuses specifically on one text: Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s The Time: Night which I propose is a plausible microcosm of reality.The novella tells the story of one family through the delusional prose of elderly Anna Andrianovna: struggling poet, single mother, and grandmother. In my analysis of The Time: Night I examine the relationships that Anna maintains with each of her family members, and show that each of them is wrought with realistically gendered problems that manifest themselves in an endless cycle of chaos and despair. I show that Petrushevskaya is using the theme of the ultimate unfit mother in this fictional tale to comment on both patriarchal constructions of motherhood, and on the idea that woman must be synonymous with dutiful wife and loving mother. I argue that Petrushevskaya conveys that reality can vary greatly from this idea, as the experience of many mothers in contemporary Russia was instead marked by poverty and discrimination.

Category

Humanities

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Apr 15th, 9:20 AM Apr 15th, 9:40 AM

Ludmila Petrushevskaya’s The Time: Night: The Theme of the Unfit Mother in Post-Soviet Russia

Post-Soviet Russia was a nation gripped by uncertainty, as profound political, economic, and social changes ensued. One such change was a dramatic increase in the instances of mothers who conceived out of wedlock. Research conducted in the late 1990's showed that this jump in birth rates to unwed mothers was largely comprised of undereducated, impoverished, and often teenage women who were fully reliant on family members. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a strained and unpleasant image of motherhood began to surface in Russia’s great literary tradition, which was in stark contrast to male-authored depictions of motherhood in years prior. I argue that in observation of the disparity between the male-authored portrayal of Russian motherhood and reality, the theme of the bad mother emerges in the works of female writers.

This paper focuses specifically on one text: Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s The Time: Night which I propose is a plausible microcosm of reality.The novella tells the story of one family through the delusional prose of elderly Anna Andrianovna: struggling poet, single mother, and grandmother. In my analysis of The Time: Night I examine the relationships that Anna maintains with each of her family members, and show that each of them is wrought with realistically gendered problems that manifest themselves in an endless cycle of chaos and despair. I show that Petrushevskaya is using the theme of the ultimate unfit mother in this fictional tale to comment on both patriarchal constructions of motherhood, and on the idea that woman must be synonymous with dutiful wife and loving mother. I argue that Petrushevskaya conveys that reality can vary greatly from this idea, as the experience of many mothers in contemporary Russia was instead marked by poverty and discrimination.