The third colloquium in the series features Ruth Wurl, Lecturer in Slavic Languages and Literatures at Stanford University. She will present on “The Unmaking of a Man: the Life of Alexander Alexandrov and the Afterlives of Nadezhda Durova”
The first portion of the talk will contextualize the historical figure of Alexandrov/Durova and their memoirs, including how Pushkin edited the text to emphasize the author’s femininity against their wishes. Dr. Wurl will then talk about two different reinterpretations of the work, Ryazanov’s film Hussar Ballad and Mary Zirin’s introduction to the English translation. Though the film and introduction have very different political positions (nationalist, feminist respecitviely), they are only able to support these by recasting the authors actions as motivated by heterosexual love (Ryazanov) or protest against the patriarchy (Zirin). Interestingly, both interpretations require discarding the largest and most explicit theme of Alexandrov-Durova’s work: (trans)masculinity.s require discarding the largest and most explicit theme of Alexandrov-Durova’s work: (trans)masculinity.
Ruth Wurl is a lecturer and Dean of the Humanities and Sciences Fellow at Stanford University. Her research analyzes the role of gender and sexuality in the formation of new social, political, aesthetic, and scientific ideas in nineteenth-century Russia, examining how new modes of personal and social identity impacted the aesthetics of “realism” in literary fiction. In her dissertation Writing Women, Ruth investigates how male authors sought to use early forms of feminism to explore their own masculine identity. Her current project seeks to reevaluate the life and writing of Alexander Alexandrov/Nadezhda Durova through the lens of trans studies.