Karolina Pavlova 1807‐-1893
(Full name Karolina Karlovna Pavlova) Russian poet, novelist, short story writer, and translator.
Pavlova is acknowledged as Russia's greatest nineteenth-century woman poet and the first woman of letters in Russia. Despite this, she had a mixed career and even today suffers a reputation as a marginal figure in world literature. Her greatest literary contribution was the development of the “story in verse.”
Pavlova was born Karolina Jänisch; in Yaroslavl, Russia, on July 10, 1807 to a German father and a French-English mother. Pavlova spoke four languages by the time she was five and took an early interest in drawing and writing poetry. Her father, Karl Andreevich Janisch, educated her at home, where she excelled at her studies. At the age of nineteen, Pavlova met Adam Mickiewicz, the great Polish poet who became her Polish language teacher. The two began a love affair and planned to marry, but the relationship ended in 1829. In the late 1820s Pavlova began translating Russian poetry into German and quickly made a name for herself in literary circles. In 1829 she began exchanging verse letters with the poets Evgenii Abramovich Baratynsky and Nikolai Mikhailovich Iazykov. By the time Pavlova had published her first book of translations, Das Nordlicht (1833), she had established herself as one of the finest translators of Russian poetry. Luminaries such as Johann Wolfgang von Goëthe praised Pavlova's ability to render the subtler aspects of poetry in her translations. When she was thirty, Pavlova married the writer Nikolai Filippovich Pavlov.
In the early 1840s Pavlova was known for her Moscow literary salon, where many of the literati of the day gathered. The salon provided a venue for exponents of the two major social philosophies of the day—the “Slavophiles” and the “Westernizers”—to debate their ideas. Pavlova was associated with the “Slavophile” movement, which emphasized Slavic cultural supremacy over western European influences. She was also a central figure in the Russian “Art for Art's Sake” movement. While Pavlova's salon made her a prominent figure, her German ethnicity and gender caused some antipathy among her peers. She had a reputation for being haughty, “unwomanly,” and overly theatrical in her love of poetry and art. Despite this, Pavlova’s novel, Dvoinaia zhizn' (A Double Life) was well received at its publication in 1848.
Meanwhile, Pavlova's husband gambled away her fortune and set up a separate household with one of her cousins, with whom he had two children. In 1852, Pavlova's father arranged for Pavlov's house to be raided. Pavlov was arrested for possessing banned books and then exiled to Perm. Pavlov's liberal friends and associates saw this as an act of treachery on Pavlova's part and she was thereafter shunned by Moscow literary society. Shortly after this her father died of cholera. When Pavlova did not attend the funeral, she was again heavily criticized. By the mid-1850s she was exiled from the Russian literary scene. Having completely fallen out with her literary associates, Pavlova left Russia for Derpt, Estonia, where she fell in love with a law student named Boris Utin. In 1854 she followed Utin to St. Petersburg and tried, unsuccessfully, to reestablish her literary reputation. By 1855 Pavlova moved to Dresden, Germany after separating from Utin. She continued to translate, focusing on the works of Aleksei Konstantinovich Tolstoi, who became her close friend. In 1868, Pavlova returned to Russia briefly to read from one of her translations. She was not well received and returned to Dresden. Pavlova died alone, without family, friends, money, or reputation, on December 2, 1893.
Pavlova first achieved fame by translating Russian poetry into German. Her translations of works by Alexander Pushkin, Iazykov, and others were collected in Das Nordlicht. The volume included several of Pavlova's original poems, but it was the translations that garnered praise from critics. Pavlova's next publication was a volume of Russian, German, English, Italian, and Polish poetry translated into French, entitled Les préludes (1839). Once again, critics hailed Pavlova's translations for their artistic coloring and faithfulness to the originals. However, Pavlova's work came under attack from some quarters because of the “Slavophile” tendencies of the poems chosen for inclusion in the volume. Pavlova's early poetry was heavily influenced by the German Romantics, and the original works in Das Nordlicht and Les préludes have fairy-tale and fantastic elements, exploring the connection of the human soul with the mysterious powers of nature.
During the 1840s, Pavlova began her distinctive use of storytelling in poetry. Unlike lyric poetry or ballads, her short “stories in verse” included complex tales with distinct plots and psychological details normally found only in prose works. A Double Life is the finest example of her mixed-genre technique. Pavlova's combined use of poetry and prose finds its most imaginative expression in A Double Life. The novel tells the story of Cecily von Lindenborn, a young aristocratic Russian woman who is to be married off to a suitable groom. The prose provides descriptions of the objective world, while the poetry gives expression to the inner life of the heroine. The work comments on the role and status of women in society, as well as exploring society's attitudes toward poetry and the artist. Like much of Pavlova's work, A Double Life draws on her own experiences as a woman and artist trapped in a society that denies her the freedom to choose her own destiny.
Pavlova's later poetry, mostly in the form of longer narratives, continues to use this technique. The poems in Razgovor v Kremle (1854) relate episodes from the Russian past and considering the historical destinies of nations. The narrative poem Kadril' (1859) is made up of four separate stories, each about a different woman and her fate in the world. The work deals with a theme that runs through much of Pavlova's work: woman's destiny.
Critical assessment of Pavlova's writing remains mixed. During her life Pavlova was both admired for her poetic sensibility and technical mastery and reviled for the “unfeminine” and overly rational nature of her poetry and artistic outlook. During the 1830s she earned praise for her superlative translation work. Her fame as a poet and literary persona grew in the 1840s, although she was often criticized for the lack of serious content in her poetry and many complained that the poet subordinated sense to sound. However, as testament to her importance as a literary figure, the publication of Pavlova's novel A Double Life. drew the attention of all the important Russian literary journals. Reviews of the work called it original and remarkable, though some critics complained of her conspicuous Slavophilic tendencies and unconvincing social critique. Pavlova's later poetry enjoyed mixed success, perhaps due to her personal unpopularity. Critics faulted her supposedly “neutral” position on important social questions. Although she continued writing and translating after her husband's arrest, her reputation never recovered. At her death, not one Russian journal ran her obituary.
In the twentieth century, Symbolist poets reevaluated Pavlova's work and a two-volume edition of her work was brought out in 1915 by Valerii Briusov. The Soviets at first dismissed her work as unprogressive, but did publish two editions of her writings, in 1939 and in 1964. Several Russian women poets, including Cherubina de Gabriak, Sofiia Parnok, Marina Tsevtaevna, and Anna Akhmatova, have held Pavlova in high regard, appreciating her impatience with female passivity and her protest against the strictures that hampered female creativity. Since the 1970s, interest in Pavlova's work has increased. Feminist scholars have revived interest in Pavlova's writings about the role and destiny of women, as well as the story of her own life, as examples of the difficulties faced by women artists in the nineteenth century. Contemporary critics also examine the techniques Pavlova used, especially her combined use of poetry and prose. Some critics find her work to be disorganized, diffuse, lacking in artistic focus, and revealing too much of the writer's personality. Others regard Pavlova's lyric poetry to be masterful in its subtlety, her narrative prose to be exquisitely wrought, and her themes (the role of the artist, the place of women in society, and the strictures placed on feminine creativity) to be ahead of their time.
Das Nordlicht: Proben er neuen russichen Literatur [translator and contributor] (poetry) 1833
Les préludes [translator and contributor] (poetry) 1839
Dvoinaia zhizn' [A Double Life] (novel) 1848
Razgovor v Kremle (poetry) 1854
Kadril' (poetry) 1859
Stikhotvoreniia (poetry) 1863
Polnoe sobranie stikhotvoreniia (poetry, prose, and short stories) 1939
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SOURCE: Briggs, Anthony D. “Twofold Life: A Mirror of Karolina Pavlova's Shortcomings and Achievement.” The Slavonic and East European Review 49, no. 114 (January 1971): 1-17.
[In the following essay, Briggs alleges that Pavlova was extreme in both her accomplishments and her deficiencies, which are reflected in her novel Twofold Life; her work, he says, is original but meandering, uncertain in its purpose, and contains too much of the writer's personality.]
Like several other poets of the mid-19th century who were connected with the theory of ‘pure art’ Karolina Pavlova (1807-93) has clung to her posthumous reputation with remarkable tenacity. She has run the accepted gauntlet. Laughed off the literary stage in her own day, she languished in near-obscurity for half a century and was rediscovered in the age of the Symbolists. Bryusov published her in two volumes in 1915 and, what is more surprising, Soviet editors have re-issued her twice in the Biblioteka Poeta series, in 1939 and 1964.1
There is much that is distinctive about Karolina Pavlova. She was the first true woman of letters in Russia and remains the leading Russian poetess before this century, with little to fear from her nearest rivals, Mmes Rostopshchina (1811-58), Zhadovskaya (1824-83) and Khvoshchinskaya (1825-89). She had a love affair with Mickiewicz, an...
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SOURCE: Sendich, Munir. “Karolina Pavlova: A Survey of her Poetry.” Russian Literature Triquarterly 3 (1972): 229-46.
[In the following essay, Sendich analyzes Pavlova's most important poetry, exploring influences on her work; prevalent genres, forms, and styles; recurring themes; and Pavlova's technical skill.]
Surveying Russian literary criticism of Karolina Pavlova one notices immediately that only part of her work was valued. While her translations were consistently praised throughout the nineteenth century, her original works were often greeted by critical reviews. The Slavophiles, who mistakenly considered her to be one of their own, praised her poetry excessively. Khomyakov declared that in “smoothness and meticulousness” Pavlova's verse was not inferior to Pushkin's. Yazykov prophesied that future generations would “worship” her poetry. On the other hand, the utilitarian-minded and “progressive” critics of The Contemporary, for example, Nekrasov, Saltykov-Shchedrin, and Dobrolyubov, grouped her with those poets whose verse was “twittering” and contained “not a drop of poetry.”
Nevertheless, she was not completely forgotten at the end of the last century when the symbolists commenced to “dig out” the outcast poets of the Pushkin Pleiad who had been so undeservedly overlooked by the critics. In Mountain Summits...
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SOURCE: Heldt, Barbara. “From Folklore through the Nineteenth Century.” In Terrible Perfection: Women and Russian Literature, pp. 111-15. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.
[In the following excerpt, Heldt offers an introduction to Pavlova's poetry, emphasizing her feminine themes and position as a woman poet.]
Russia's greatest nineteenth-century woman poet, Karolina Pavlova (1807-1893), repeatedly used images of the self, embedding them in a body of poetry whose varied themes and forms seem, at first reading, to disguise the fact that a female self is present in them at all. Often her poems are allegorical: the poet-craftsman is destroyed by society. Her most extensive treatment of the feminine condition occurs in her novel A Double Life, a mixed work of prose and poetry, sparing of words like her lyrics, but rich in a peculiarly female irony, which specifically points to the shallowness of men.
Its heroine, about to be forced into an unhappy marriage, is powerless and uncomprehending, “used to wearing her mind in a corset,”1 and increasingly isolated even as she seemingly joins in a life full of the pleasures of the very rich. Pavlova gives her heroine's soul an outlet in dreams which occur in verse at the end of each chapter; but by the end of the novel it is made clear that she will no longer be able to hear the voice of her inner self. Pavlova...
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SOURCE: Greene, Diana. “Karolina Pavlova's ‘At the Tea Table’ and the Politics of Class and Gender.” The Russian Review 53, no. 2 (April 1994): 271-84.
[In the following essay, Greene discusses the literary qualities of Pavlova's short story, “At the Tea Table,” and asserts that it overturns the popular paradigm of the upper class woman “victimizing” her male lover. Greene maintains that the story presents women with dignity, exploring power relations and gender and class hierarchies.]
Cora Kaplan's assertion that “the doubled inscription of sexual and social difference is the most common, characteristic trope” of nineteenth-century Anglo-American fiction holds true for nineteenth-century Russian literature as well.1 While analyses of class politics in Russian literature have been discredited by the excesses of Soviet socialist realism, such an approach to literature can have its uses.2 Certainly, in nineteenth-century Russian society several factors served to polarize class relations and also to make them an important and recurring literary theme. First, class differences in Russia were very rigidly defined and maintained; secondly, in contrast to the West, there were very few middle-class women writers to offer a more complex, “decentered” class perspective; thirdly, the draconian Russian political censorship forced protests against social injustice into...
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SOURCE: Kelly, Catriona. “Karolina Pavlova (1807-1893).” In A History of Russian Women's Writing 1820-1992, pp. 93-107. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994.
[In the following excerpt, Kelly presents an overview of Pavlova's background and writing career—discussing her dual role as a writer and a woman; the details of her work; and the criticism it drew during her lifetime.]
Like Elisaveta Kulman, Karolina Pavlova, whose maiden name was Jänisch, was partly of non-Russian descent; her father was of German extraction, and Pavlova was to grow up trilingual in German, Russian, and French. Her earliest published collection was a volume of original German poetry, and translations of Russian poetry into German, Northern Lights (1833); her second collection was a similar mixed edition of original French poems and translations, Preludes (1839). It is tempting to attribute her remarkable, even unique, achievement in creating herself as a Romantic woman poet to her mixed origins, and to speculate that her status as an étrangère, a woman outside the society in which she moved, may to some extent have insulated her, at a subjective level, from the general belief that the composition of poetry was anomalous for women.1
There certainly seems some evidence that Pavlova was aware of the German Romantic emphasis on the creative powers of ‘the eternal feminine’. Amongst...
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SOURCE: Greene, Diana. “Gender and Genre in Pavlova's A Double Life.” Slavic Review 54, no. 3 (fall 1995): 563-77.
[In the following essay, Greene examines the mixture of prose and poetry in A Double Life, arguing that Pavlova's use of mixed genres was affected by gender issues.]
The literary reputation of Karolina Pavlova (1807-1893) has fluctuated considerably over the years: she was praised in the 1830s, 1840s and early 1850s, reviled in the 1860s as unprogressive and consigned to oblivion from the 1870s until her death in 1893. At the turn of the century she was rediscovered by the Russian symbolists: Poliakov, Blok and Bely praised her, and Valerii Briusov edited a two-volume edition of her work (1915). Women poets of the time, such as Cherubina de Gabriak (Elisaveta Vasil'eva), Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva and Parnok, cited her and dedicated poems to her. After the revolution Pavlova was reconsigned to oblivion. Two scholarly editions of Pavlova's poetry appeared during the Soviet period (1937 and 1964) but accompanied by introductions deploring her unprogressive views on politics and art. At best they damned her with faint praise as “not first rate but all the same somewhat noteworthy.” The ambivalent attitude toward Pavlova may have reflected a conflict between the Soviet attempt to “claim the classics for the Soviet cause” while downplaying material that could not be construed...
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SOURCE: Lehrman, Alexander. “The Poetics of Karolina Pavlova.” In Essays on Karolina Pavlova, edited by Susanne Fusso and Alexander Lehrman, pp. 3-20. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2001.
[In the following essay, Lehrman explores the verbal quality in representative examples of Pavlova's verse to show what constitutes her excellence as a poet.]
In Russia, her homeland, Karolina Karlovna Pavlova (or Caroline von Pawloff, as she signed her printed works and letters during the German period of her life) is remembered only by a few specialists, which is to say hardly at all. The hundredth anniversary of her death (1993) passed virtually unnoticed there. Yet, beginning in the early 1970s, something like a quiet Pavlova revival has been under way in the West, primarily in the United States and in Germany. This revival is unfortunately due less to Pavlova's literary work per se than to two sociocultural factors: first and foremost, her gender and, less important, her ethnos (Karolina Pavlova, née Jänisch, or Jaenisch, was of German descent). If one adds to her gender and ethnos such public-opinion negatives as the privileges of wealth, a brilliant education, and intelligence, as well as the lack of the obligatory prettiness, a certain “cold” formality of manner, and finally her disastrous marriage to the profligate but “politically correct” Nikolaj Filippovich Pavlov, it...
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SOURCE: Fusso, Susanne. “Pavlova's Quadrille: The Feminine Variant.” In Essays on Karolina Pavlova, edited by Susanne Fusso and Alexander Lehrman, pp. 118-30. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2001.
[In the following essay, Fusso argues that in Pavlova's narrative poem Quadrille, she offers a feminine critique of Russian Romanticism by presenting post-Romantic heroines with inner lives that are represented in vivid detail.]
Does a writer's gender matter? Literary criticism, especially Western literary criticism, has in the last twenty-five years answered yes, devoting much thought and study to the question of the specific, distinctive character of writing by women. Writers, on the other hand, are often heard to answer no, and interviews with women who are writers often include some version of the sentence “I am not a woman writer, I am a writer.”1 It is not clear how Karolina Pavlova would have answered the question, because although she was deeply concerned with the psychology and problems of women, her literary models were all men, and she explicitly placed herself in a poetic fraternity that included Iazykov, Baratynskïj, and Pushkin, among others.2 The latter circumstance was of course dictated by the situation of Russian literature in the mid-nineteenth century; there were no major female literary models for the young Pavlova to emulate....
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Greene, Diana. “Karolina Pavlova's ‘Tri dushi’: The Transfiguration of Biography.” Proceedings of the Kentucky Foreign Language Conference, Slavic Section 2, no. 1 (1984): 15-24.
Analyzes the poem, “Tri dushi” and discusses the three poets in order to show how Pavlova transformed biography into art.
———. “Nineteenth-Century Women Poets: Critical Reception vs. Self-Definition.” In Women Writers in Russian Literature, edited by Toby W. Clyman and Diana Greene, pp. 104-6. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1994.
Provides a brief biography and overview of Pavlova's literary works and reputation.
Heldt Monter, Barbara. Introduction to A Double Life, by Karolina Pavlova, translated and with an introduction by Barbara Heldt Monter, pp. i-xx. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Ardis, 1978.
Assesses Pavlova's mixed-genre novel and the work's relation to her own life.
Sendich, Munir. “Moscow's Literary Salons: Thursdays at Karolina Pavlova's.” Die Welt der Slaven 17, no. 2 (1972): 341-57.
Discusses Pavlova's literary salon during the 1840s.
———. “Twelve Unpublished Letters of Karolina Pavlova to Alexey Tolstoy.” Russian Literature Triquarterly 9 (1974): 541-58.
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