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Queer Transnational Encounters in Russian Literature: Gender, Sexuality, and National Identity

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransnational Russian Studies
EditorsAndy Byford, Connor Doak, Stephen Hutchings
Publisher or commissioning bodyLiverpool University Press
DateIn preparation - 2019

Publication series

NameTransnational Modern Languages
PublisherLiverpool University Press

Abstract

This chapter takes a transnational approach to the representation of queer people in Russian literature, exploring the intersection between gender, sexuality, and national identity. The analysis focuses on the trope of ‘queer transnational encounters’ between Russians and Westerners, making the argument that this trope goes back to the early twentieth century, when the first openly gay literature flowered in Russia, but reappears in the contemporary period. While homosexuality became legal after the fall of the Soviet Union, homophobia persisted – even increased – in the first decades of the twenty-first century. Two short stories serve as case studies of the intersection of the queer and the transnational in literature. Viktoriia Tokareva’s 1999 story ‘The Violet Suit’ is a pseudo-ethnographic account of a Russian woman’s encounter with a lesbian in Paris. The story functions as a critique of western liberal attitudes to gender and sexuality, mapping Russia’s anxieties about national identity on to queer, Western bodies. However, a queer reading of the story reveals the contradictions in Russian gender ideologies. Tokareva’s story is paired with Margarita Meklina’s 2008 ‘Mr Esposito’, a playful, metafictional account of a Russian immigrant to the US who plans to gain fame by writing the story of a local trans woman. Meklina’s story not only reveals the ethical problems with Tokareva’s approach to writing, but also offers a pertinent critique of conventional understandings of the intersection between national identity, gender, and sexuality.

    Research areas

  • gender, sexuality, Russian studies, transnational

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