February 1, 2020 at 11:15 pm

Modern Languages Colloquium | Womanhood and Motherhood in Al. Sumbatov-Iuzhin’s Drama Chains, Feb. 4

A woman with short brown hair and glasses

Dr. Mila Shevchenko

The Modern Languages Colloquium series presents Dr. Mila Shevchenko discussing “Whose Chains Are Those Anyway? Womanhood and Motherhood in Al. Sumbatov-Iuzhin’s Drama Chains” on Tuesday, Feb. 4 from 3–4 p.m. in Gordy 113. Anyone interested is invited to attend.

Shevchenko is an Associate Professor of Instruction in Russian and Russian Program Coordinator in the Modern Languages Department.

Abstract: “When Chains was staged in 1888, many critics viewed it as an example of Sumbatov’s proclivity for dramatizing clashes of “contrasting cultures,” that is the ubiquitous camps of virtue and vice. The “chain” symbol they read exclusively as the essence of the play’s antagonists (the Nina-Proporiev) plotline. Well into the 20th century, the general interpretation of the play did not undergo any radical revision. The “horrible chains” were construed as Nina allowing Proporiev to lead her down the primrose path: the path of immorality, self-indulgency, and destruction. When choosing the play’s title, Sumbatov unquestionably had in mind Nina’s fatal liaison with Proporiev and her inability to break out from the web of his intimidation and extortion. On a larger scale, however, there is another “set” of chains, and it is the principal dimension of the drama’s evocative title: the “chains” of matrimony and of the public opinion. On the one hand, Sumbatov explores the problem from the perspective of Volyntsev’s (the play’s protagonist) dilemma, whether to fall under society’s pressure and sacrifice his love to Olga (the female protagonist) or to resist and protect their family. On the other hand, in the opposition Nina-Olga, the playwright brings to the fore the issue of lawful and common-law unions’ status and that of birth and surrogate parents’ rights. These two main themes unfold unfailingly and concurrently, and this is what makes the play Sumbatov’s most harmonious and powerful play. The dramatist challenges the established heavily-gendered formulas of melodrama: unlike the male central characters, the leading heroines develop and transform, and in this way the playwright illustrates melodrama’s “emancipatory implications for women.”

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