Category Archives: Gender

On the Masculinity Crisis in the Literary Works of A. H. Tammsaare: The Master of Kõrboja (1922)

Mirjam Hinrikus (Under-Tuglas Centre for Literary Research, Estonia)

In  his essay „Literary Style“ (1912), critic Friedebert Tuglas (1886-1971), a leading figure in the Young Estonia movement, made the following claim about modernity and Estonian life: „the city, a new tempo of life, and a new psychology…have not neglected to make their appearance here “. Tuglas summarizes these three factors as „the intellectual urbanization of the country“. The writer who most deeply articulated the dynamics behind this statement was A. H. Tammsaare (1878-1940). A crucial thematic line both in Tammsaare´s short novel The Master of Kõrboja (Kõrboja peremees, 1922), and the first and last volumes of his epic novel Truth and Justice (Tõde ja õigus) was the penetration of  technology, capitalism and urban mentality into the countryside, with the resultant profound alienation of humans from nature and agrarian society more generally.  These problems are, in turn, fraught with shifts in gender relations, specifically, a crisis in masculinity.

Anna, the  female protagonist of Tammsaare`s short novel The Master of Kõrboja, is an emancipated woman whose behaviour is marked by both the new tempo of life and urban „nervousness“, features perceived as are alien in the rural village to which she returns as the unmarried sole heir of the prosperous Kõrboja farm.  Her chosen, Villu, heir of the Katku farm,  is disabled due to an accident. Villu`s masculinity is constructed according to the gender expectations of the rural society, but it falls short of the full measure of physical health; the crisis of Villu`s masculinity leads eventually to his suicide. This paper will analyze the disintegration of representations of gender in the novel.

Negotiating Nation, Locality, and Gender in Exile: Latvian Refugees and Deportees 1940-1953

 Irēne Elksnis Geisler (Grand Valley State University)

The concept of locality is paramount to scholarly discussions confronting the relationship between territory and identity. Contemporary discourse frequently encourages us to refine the concepts of “nation” and “collective belonging” relative to territory and cultural entity. For Latvians who were deported to Siberia, and who fled to the West, the path into exile was a journey of border crossings. This was not only a physical experience, but an emotional passage into multiple unknowns. Many Latvians in diaspora and former deportees now living in Latvia continue to self-identify with origins linked to a distinctive rural Latvian homeland. Accordingly, to lose one’s dzimtene (native place) is analogous to losing one’s personhood. As Latvian women and men self-reflect on dzimtene, they reveal the centrality of gender and locality in the basic construction of Latvian national identity.

This paper utilizes the lens of gender to explore and interpret oral narratives of former Latvian refugees and deportees of Second World War and Post-war Latvia, specifically in relation to concepts of locality and identity. It finds that women, because of their social roles and gender constructs, identified with these ideas differently than did men. Throughout the chaos and suffering of war and deportation, women often sought to preserve tradition, social norms and customs. During Summer Solstice, refugee women picked Jāņuzāles, flowers with healing properties rooted in Latvian folklore. Some deportees made great efforts to bring along folk costumes to Siberia. In the narratives of survivors, particularly women, locality shaped experiences and memories, reinforcing the notion of loss of national belonging.


Keyword: Irene

Masculinity in Estonian Public Discourse: Perpetual Crisis?

Raili Marling (Tartu University)

Masculinity seems to be in a state of perpetual crisis in the Western world today, including in Estonia, where the ‘threats’ to ‘true masculinity’ are believed to be both external (e.g., EU legislation) and internal (e.g., Estonian women). The present-day media hype effaces the fact that masculinity crisis as a discourse has been prevalent in the West at least since the late 19th century and has been almost inexorably linked to modernization. Building on the work of Bederman (1995) and Forth (2008) the paper will, first, outline the associations between masculinity, the nation and modernity and, second, transpose the discourses into present-day Estonia to test their viability in the post-industrial context. Although theoretical in its intent, the paper will be illustrated with case studies (editorials from the Postimees, the film Kirjad inglile (Letters to the Angel)). The core problem investigated is the contradiction between the reality of male power and the discourse of male weakness and, more broadly, the function of the masculinity crisis in gender order.

Women`s Time in the Museum: Archives, Exhibition, Intervention. A Case Study of the First Feminist Exhibition on Sculpture and Film in Lithuania

Laima Kreivytė (Vilnius Academic of Arts / European Humanities University)

What would be a feminist response to the patrilineal canon of art history? How can we (re)write grand narratives in the museum and challenge a rigid institutional framework? Based on a specific case I will discuss three strategies of feminist interventions: subverting the archive, curating the exhibition and mis(s)appropriation.

The exhibition Woman’s Time. Sculpture and Film (National Gallery of Art, Vilnius, 2010) re-examined the political, social, and cultural construction of  “woman” in Lithuanian sculpture and film of the 20th century. It reflected the growing interest in women’s creativity and gender issues in art, as well as recent social and political changes that pointed to the prominent role played by women in the country’s cultural life and public sphere. Sculpture and cinema were chosen as ideologically important media that capture the “spirit of the age” and that might also be analysed from sociological and anthropological perspectives. There was an attempt to look at woman from the point of view of the contemporary spectator, rather than from that of an artist or a critic. Thus, works by acclaimed Lithuanian sculptors and film directors share the space with pieces that are almost kitsch, yet all of them are documents of woman’s life at the time. The exhibition’s title was inspired by Julia Kristeva’s essay “Women’s Time”, in which she analyses the situation of women in Europe by exploring three notions of time: linear, cyclical and monumental. The most important idea was to link woman to time, not just to space or the body, as in the Western philosophy.

Keywords: Kreivyte