Voices in the Shadows: Women and Verbal Art in Serbia and Bosnia

Voices in the Shadows : Women and Verbal Art in Serbia and Bosnia
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Home page This read voices in the shadows women and verbal art in serbia did caused by production Joseph Harold Burckhalter, M.

Cecilia Hawkesworth

In the circumstances in which they were writing, seeking to participate fully in the historical moment, such women tended to avoid modes of expression which could be associated with a feminine perspective. Womens central role in the private sphere then acquired different associations, the concept of motherhood now assuming crucial significancefor the future of the nation. Pickup not available. Petr Borkovec is now a somewhat neglected author, and it is unquestionably true that only a small handful of readers know his work. It is to be hoped that, by highlighting such cooperative values, this bookmay offer the general reading public a different image of the region to that which has dominated the media in the last decade ofthe twentieth century.

She does not doubt the value of the works published by women, emphasizing exclusively the importance of the circumstances in which they worked. These words of appreciation, spoken on the occasion of unveiling her monument, it is said in the text, should be "read by all our women of pen, when they find it difficult to step over the stones, thrown to their feet by unpleasant people. Then, as it is appropriate for a text whose primary purpose is practical, and not theoretical, a detailed list follows as an "inventory" of the names of Serbian women writers made after the edition of Srpkinja from and broadened with new names.

A Room of One's Own has a very similar ending - it is an address to the collective women's spirit which is the only one capable of reviving the unlucky precursor, Shakespeare's sister: "But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while.

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As a whole, the text "Women and Literature" clearly expresses the necessity of separating the involvement of men and women in literature, so that the differences in the position of women writers could be clearly seen and their needs for necessary conditions met. A separate magazine, paid work, the creation of bonds between other women of pen, the reconstruction and preservation of a distinct women's literary tradition - these are all preconditions for the career of women writers. These are exactly the areas that feminist criticism and feminist theory in general were analyzing during their first two decades: they were separately researching the position and the contribution of women, which had been neglected for centuries within the so called universal theories.

Such requests would nowadays certainly be called the "feminist ones". The question is, however, whether the literary women from the first decades of XX century would have named them "feminist", and if so, what they would mean by this term. The anonymous author of the text at stake says that her demand for the recognition of the value of Serbian women's work can be presented "without any further pretensions either feminist or so called emancipatory" However, it would be a mistake to believe that "feminism" had an exclusively negative connotation in that period, at least among the women belonging to intelligentsia.

This terminological misunderstanding is the result of an effort to harmonize the tendencies leading towards the creation of modern society. These tendencies included the demand for women's rights and for the improvement of their position on the one hand, as well as the strong traditional images of women and women's role, on the other. The feminism in Serbia was under the influence of foreign movements, and it was, in that period, considered "an imported ideology", although the struggle for national liberation and for the sustaining of national consciousness gave it a peculiar mark.

Therefore, women intellectuals are expected, as the text "Women and Literature" states, to influence the creation of culture among the folk, to make them "morally stronger" and more familiar with books. A peculiar concoction of modernizing tendencies and traditionalism is reflected in the belief that women's education should improve the society as a whole, through educated mothers: " Written sixteen years before A Room of One's Own , in the period of important historical upheavals and in the environment burdened with strong patriarchal heritage, this text is today unjustly forgotten.

At the very end of the XX century, it still seems valid because of its engagement, precise observations and sharp criticism. With its openness, its requests and its practical ideas this text can still be of use in further development of feminist criticism in this country. Home About us.

Tuesday, 24 September, Women's Studies Journal. Back to Top. Designed By. With the penetration of the Ottoman Turks into the peninsula, a relatively. As Ottoman power began to wane, the influence of the Habsburg Monarchy increased from the late sixteenth century on- wards among the Serbs living in the Habsburg lands, and after in Bosnia. Until the end of the fourteenth century, the circumstances of life for the ordinary population of the region were broadly similar to those elsewhere in feudal Europe. But when the Ottoman Turks oc- cupied the territories, they replaced the existing state structures with their ownnetworkoflocal landholders and provincial governors.

While this ruling structure was, on the whole, benign, leaving the villages with considerable autonomy inrunning their own affairs, the development of the social and cultural lifeof the indigenous popula- tion was seriously affected, being left in the hands of representatives of the different religious groups whose own level of education was, on the whole, minimal.

In predominantly Christian areas trade and urban activity were dominated by foreigners, mainly Greeks and offl- cials of the Ottoman Empire. Even in Bosnia, where there evolved a large population of local Slav converts to Islam, the general educa- tional and cultural level ofthe great majority remainedlow. It should also be stressed that, as a result of successivewars between the great powers in the region, in which the local population was inevitably caught up, the moreprosperous and mobile localtraders-the people with the most education, in other words-were those who tended to find rehge in neighboring countries, seeking greater stability and escaping reprisals.

This mobility makes it hard to assess the quality of life in the towns which were most affected by the fluctuations of their inhabitants. Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly the case that the majority of the population of the whole region was largely confined to the countryside, where educational possibilities were minimal.

As a result, the traditional social structures of village life hardly changed for years. While urban life developed rapidlyin the course of the twenti- eth century, the largely static state of the countryside meant that an increasingly sharp divide developed betweenthe people in the towns and those in the villages, one which has endured to thisday. For a number of reasons, the Serb population is given the fullest treat- ment: on the one hand, a large-scale migration at the end of the sev- enteenth century led to the growth of a prosperous community in southern Hungary, where conditionsfor the development of culture quickly evolved in the context of the Habsburg Monarchy.

In Serbia itself, an independent kingdom was established in the nineteenth century, and educational and cultural institutions were able to de- velop rapidly from the middle of the century onwards. The rugged mountainous territory of Montenegro, which was never completely subject to Ottoman rule, and where a tiny kingdom was founded in , remained largely inaccessible to educational and culhlral in- fluences from the West, apart from the small communities in the coastal towns, notably Kotor, which came underVenetian influence, and the miniature capital, Cetinje, perched high in the mountains.

This predominantly tribal society was deeply traditional,and the lives of the inhabitants, particularly the women-in the inland areas at least-remained largely unchanged fromthe Middle Ages until recent times. The population con- sisted of adherents of the two Christian churches, Catholic and Or- thodox, and a large group of local Muslims.

It was extremely unsta- ble as a result of the constant friction between the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires,whichcausedwavesof refigees from different ethnic groups tomove in and out of the territory at intervals overthe centuries. The catastrophic wars at the end of the twentieth century in the lands that were Yugoslavia offera painful illustrationof the instability of life in this region.

The Yugoslav wars of the s have reflected on a shockingscale the frequent movementsof population that have characterized much of Balkan history, bringing home to us the mis- ery and suffering entailed by such violent upheavals. Gradually, their gods were adapted to the new Chris- tian ideas, but the old ways survived in many forms with remarkable tenacity. To a considerable extent, the Slavs resisted Roman civil law and continued to regulatefamily and community relations according to their ancient ideas ofjustice.

As is the case with all pagan gods, the Slavgodswere not grand forces directing the universe, balancing absolute categoriesof good and evil, but figures evolved from natural phenomena perceived as significant. The Slavsgodswereclose at hand, intimately present in all aspects of daily life: in the fields, the home, and the family.


Nodilo cites the exampleof the close relationship between the gods and heroes of classical Greece, concluding that this tendency among the Balkan Slavs preceded the domination of Christianity and Islam. In this second phase,the local rulerstended to be replaced in the popular imagination by highwaymen whose activi- ties undermined Turkish administration and commerce, and from that time on the Slav gods were transformed into heroes.

Ancient layers of popular belief may also be traced in traditional songs and stories, in which patterns of behavior and the characteristics of par- ticular gods are transferred to the portrayal of individual heroes. These songs and stories are woven into every aspect of life in the Balkan villages,forming an intricate web of great cohesive power. Cultural activity among the small educated elite in the medieval states in the region varied in intensity, depending on political cir- cumstances.

In the Serbian states, in particular, the influence of Byz- antium was strong: between the mid-twelfth and late fourteenth cen- turies, these states were sufficiently stable and prosperous for large numbers of monasteries and churches to be built, richly decorated withmagnificentfrescoes. A substantialbodyofwriting was pro- duced within the context of the administrative needs of church and state, including biographies of the rulers, reinforcing the main Ne- manjid dynasty, which dominated Serbian medieval history. On the basis of these documents, treaties, trade agreements, letters, and so on, it is possible to buildup a detailed pictureof the lives of the rul- ing class, in which individual women played an important part.

The last vestiges of an independent Serbian state disappeared in After that, monks continued to copy documents and so preserve a degree of literacy among an element of the population, but it was not until the great migration of into Habsburg lands north of the Danube that the conditions began to be createdfor the renewal of cultural activity.

Voices in the Shadows: Women and Verbal Art in Serbia and Bosnia

The focal point of Serbian intellectual life shifted to Belgrade in the course of the nineteenth century as educational and cultural institutions were gradually established there. By the end of the century, many young men-and a handful of women-were traveling to foreign universities to study and returning with a new, European outlook.

In the twentieth century, cultural trends echoed those of the rest of Europe. From the middle of the seventeenth century, writing in these orien- tal languagesgave way to the new trend of writing in the vernacular, although the Arabic script was retained until the end of the nine- teenth century. Thisliterature was known as alhamijado, a corruption of an Arabic term meaning foreign. While the development of written vernacular literature was inter- rupted by the Ottoman occupation, an oral tradition flourished throughout the territories under consideration.

The contribution of women to this dimension of the regions culture is great and this will be the first focusof the present study.

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Afterthat, it traces the written literature produced by women, from the first modest beginnings in the Middle Ages and the early nineteenth century to the turn of the century, when women were able to draw on the energy and experi- ence of a broad international womens movement. The period up to the Second WorldWar was a time of energetic intellectual activity for educated women throughout the Yugoslav lands.

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However, the achievements of this generation were largely overlooked in official socialist cultural and literary history. Afterthe Second World War,in Yugoslavia as in most of Eastern Europe, we are confronted by a paradox: the prevailing ideologyheld that the woman question had been solved with the establishment of a socialist government and that it was therefore inappropriate to explore the position of women in social, intellectual,and cultlu-al life. And yet, as has been discussed in manystudies ofwomen in the socialistsocieties of Eastern Europe, the fact remained that women were still marginalized, sad- dled with the double burden of employment and domestic work, their position in practice often being less favorable than that of many women in the period between the wars.

It was not until the s that women were again able to question the marginal role to which their creativity had been consigned, and it is possible to trace the beginnings of a new, alternative, consciously womens voice in literature. There are three main componentsin the cultural heri- tage of the Balkan lands: the influence of the Orthodox Christian Church, with its Byzantine background; the presence of Islam in the particular form it took in the Balkans; and the basic social structure of the zadmga-the patriarchal extended family farm, which set the basic pattern of life in most of the countryside, at least until the Sec- ond World War.

The general tenets of Christianity and Islam in rela- tion to women are too familiar to be repeated here. The zudruga has been extensively studiedby sociologists and anthropologists. The basic principle was that, while the male members never left the common home, women entered by marriage, and were thus disadvantaged from the outset by their lack of blood-ties tothe family unit. The organization of the household was hierarchical, with every member having a defi- nite rank, determined by age and sex, the sex criterion being stronger than the age criterion: all males were superior to any of the womenfolk, particularly in regions with a fighting tradition.

The duties of the appointed top7 woman-usually the heads wife-were to make clothes for herself, her husband and children, and any widows in the household, to distribute tasks among the other women, and to en- sure that all the needs of the household and workers in the fields were met.

Several studies of the system focus on the mechanisms for reinforcing the domination of the male-oriented group over its fe- male members: for example, in public the man must be seen to as- sert his authority by walking in front of his wife, or riding the only donkey while the women carry heavy loads. There is wide- spread agreement that the views of women in European culture which have dominated its history are largely negative, and that they have hardly changed since the days of the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews.

In common with other historical and cultural surveys, this study finds initial justification for this view of the roles of Ortho- dox Christianity and Islam in the Balkans in the fact that accounts of their history typically do notmention women,not even as a category, let alone as individuals who have playeda rolein the development of the regions religious life.


Women in the region may thus be re- garded, as has been documented in so many other historical and cultural works, as having slipped out of history, living somehow out- side the world of masculine achievements. That women have been systematically neglected in the presentation of the history of this area was highlighted in an important article published in , written by the Croatian feminist historian Lydia Sklevicky, and memorably entitled More Horses than Women. O Through her work in reassessing conventional accounts of womens rolesin the history of the Central Balkans, Sklevicky contributed greatly to building confi- dence among younger scholars,and thus giving momentum to a new focus on women in their work.

Nevertheless, the process of establish- ing womens studies on a secure footingin southeastern Europe has so far proved dikult. The word feminist remains highly p r o b lematic, even at the end of the s.

A revised translation of a contemporary classic of Croatian literature

The first complete literary history in relation to women's writing in south-east Europe. The author provides a broad chronological account of this contribution. Story time just got better with Prime Book Box, a subscription that delivers hand- picked children's books every 1, 2, or 3 months — at 40% off List Price.

Funds for gender-based re- searchwerethus hard to come by,even beforeviolentconflict erupted in the Yugoslav lands. Nevertheless, easy access to informa- tion about feminist movements and theory in various Western socie- ties,combinedwith the activitiesof the feminist groups founded since the late s in the main urban centers of former Yugoslavia, and of a few individual journalistsand academics, began graduallyto influence younger generations of women scholars.

Olja Savicevic

In the course of the Os, despite the war, womens studies courses were set up at the Graduate School of the Humanities in Ljubljana, and as extra- curricular subjects at the universities of Belgrade and Zagreb. Such courses were given a new urgency by the recognition that the new democracies created in East and Central Europe since the collapse ofCommunismhaveapredominantlymaleface:womenhave tended once again to be marginalized in these transformations, at the same time as losing some of their basic human rights. In addi- tion, most strikingly in the area under consideration, the economic and political crisis accompanying the period of transition has been marked by a deep-seated nationalism which tends to foster ideas of women as reproductive instruments for providing the nation with sons.

The present work seeks to make a contribution to the growth of gender studies in southeast Europe. It does not, of course, pretend to provide a definitive account of womens contribution to verbal art in these lands, but it offers a framework for further study.