Marina Cvetaeva and the Economy of Romance

Sibelan Forrester, Swarthmore College

Cvetaeva’s writing is largely powered by her elaboration of accepted cultural or mythological narratives. One of the most essential/basic/underlying of these is the heterosexual romance, which glimmers through other, more local topics almost as dependably as the narrative of poetic creation which it largely shapes. As Diana Burgin has suggested, important keys to the psychology and origins of this narrative pattern lie in Cvetaeva’s 1914-1916 love affair with Sofia Parnok. This paper will examine the shape of the heterosexual romance in Cvetaeva’s work, arguing that its stages (the “immanent” stage of girlhood followed by the clash of the encounter with the “enemy,” a man, which leads to impregnation/inspiration and from there returns to solitude or a space that is all feminine-gendered) create a loop that the poet can replay almost indefinitely. Cvetaeva begins by carrying out the various stages of this progression in her poetry (becoming quite conscious of it by the early 1920s), while later in her career she describes it, particularly in the 1934 “Lettre ŕ l’Amazone.” My reading is informed both by a critique of fin-de-sičcle works on gender and creativity (Otto Weininger’s Sex and Character; Maričtta Šaginian’s extensive review of Cvetaeva’s first book), and by recent scholars who have studied Cvetaeva’s approach to gender.


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