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The Visible Woman

Interwar Romanian Womens Writing, Modernity
and the Gendered Public/Private Divide

Voichit a Nachescu

In this article I analyse four novels by four Romanian women writers in order to bring
into focus their perspectives on interwar gender roles, urbanisation and modernisa-
tion. First, I discuss the concept of feminine literature, largely used by (predominantly
male) Romanian literary critics to describe literary works by women, as a description
of normative femininity rather than an aesthetic category. Second, I argue that through
their literary works, Romanian women writers eectively criticised interwar gender
roles, more precisely the divide between public masculinity and private femininity, the
constraints of womens sexual agency, and the heterosexual romance. Last, I analyse
four novels published (mainly) during the interwar period by the Romanian women
writers Hortensia Papadat Bengescu (18761955), Henriee Yvonne Stahl (19001984),
Ioana Postelnicu (19102004) and Anioara Odeanu (19121972), focussing on the fe-
male characters presence and visibility in the urban public space and on the dynamics
of the gaze that polices their behaviour.

KEYWORDS: Romania, Womens Writing, Interwar Period, Gender, History, Literature,

Modernisation, Urbanisation


The interwar period represents a distinctive era in Romanian cultural history: a period
of accelerated modernisation, urbanisation and highly energetic nation-building; an
age of industrialisation and participation in transnational networks of capital; a period
of intense centralisation, in the aempt to unify administratively and culturally the
newly acquired provinces that doubled the Romanian territory at the end of the First
World War and included various national minorities; the time of a booming cultural
production and intensied cultural contact, predominantly with Western Europe.1

aspasia Volume 2, 2008: 7090


The purpose of this article is twofold: rst, to unearth Romanian womens experi-
ence of urbanisation and modernisation as expressed in some of their literary works;
and second, to situate this experience against the discourses that regulated notions
of femininity during the interwar period.2 These discourses developed in the context
of nation-building and invited women to dedicate their energies to this process, yet
mostly as mothers and wives. As Maria Bucur argues, the Romanian eugenicist move-
ment, which acquired a certain administrative and discursive power at the time, ad-
vocated a separation between public masculinity and private femininity. Regardless of
the signicant local dierences in social structure, supporters of eugenics considered
this model, whose features point to Western European middle-class gender arrange-
ments, as a valid one for all Romanian strata. They also disregarded economic insecu-
rity and the demand for cheap, unskilled labour, which were the factors that pushed
most women into the workforce.3
Womens participation in cultural discourses, where literature occupied a cen-
tral position, met with similar constraints. Two of the most important literary histo-
ries of Romania were wrien around this time, Eugen Lovinescus Istoria literaturii
romne contemporane (History of contemporary Romanian literature, 1937) and George
Clinescus Istoria literaturii romne de la origini i pn n present (History of Romanian
literature from the origins until nowadays, 1941), establishing the canon of modern
Romanian literature. Read as narratives of Romanian identity, these works install a
gendered division of literary labour that exiles women writers to a gheo called femi-
nine literature.4 As a concept that was elaborated on during the interwar period in
Romania, feminine literature is not connected with contemporary French feminists
lcriture fminine.5 As used by Romanian literary critics, feminine literature was a
marginal category of Romanian literature, in which most women writers found them-
selves, regardless of style or literary inuence. For some literary critics, feminine lit-
erature was a concept with philosophical dimensions; nevertheless, in many cases,
feminine literature oered an excuse to express conservative views about womens
roles in Romanian society, or more precisely, to express convictions about womens
biological destiny as wives and mothers, relegated to the private sphere.
These discourses, which exhibit a strong prescriptive dimension with regard to
gender roles, testify to anxieties related to womens participation in modern society.
As demonstrated by studies regarding mostly Western European cities, capitalist ad-
vancements and the transition from household to industrial production allowed, espe-
cially in the city, the emergence of new forms of female mobility and empowerment,
albeit with their own limitations. In most European cities, the end of the nineteenth
century and the beginning of the twentieth century witnessed new forms of womens
participation in the public urban sphere as both workers and consumers. Bucharest,
Romanias capital, was also a city in ux and grew mainly as a result of industrialisa-
tion and migration from the countryside. In 1930, for example, only een percent of
the inhabitants of Bucharest had been born in the city.6
What were Romanian womens experiences and narratives of the public, especially
the urban public space, in the context of interwar modernisation? In her essay The
Invisible Flneuse, Janet Wol argues for the need to uncover womens perspective of
the public sphere while recognising the impossibility of a female counterpart to the

neur, the modern subject who, much like Charles Baudelaire, would spend his time
botanising on the asphalt and studying the life of the city. As Wol states, the neuse
as a character was rendered impossible by the sexual divisions of the nineteenth cen-
tury.7 The exploration of social practices has focussed also on womens visibility in the
public sphere and the mechanisms that police their behaviour. As Elizabeth Wilson
claims, women have been considered an irruption in the city, a symptom of disorder,
and a problem.8
Nevertheless, an eort to focus on womens agency has encouraged researchers to
discuss not only the limitations and exclusions of women, but also to document his-
torically womens ways of negotiating these constraints.9 Historical and cultural stud-
ies exploring the neuse have since been wrien, focussing on womens presence in
the public sphere within specic circumstances of nation-building in Western Europe
and detailing womens experiences in cities such as London, Paris and Berlin.10 In a
transnational context, this article adds an important Romanian perspective to an al-
ready substantial body of work that studies gender and urbanisation in Britain, France
and Germany.
Two historical particularities distinguish the Romanian case: the absence of a
widespread feminist movement and the late modernisation and urbanisation, occur-
ring concomitantly with the highly energetic nation-building processes aer 1918. The
division between public masculinity and private femininity may have acquired less
ideological force than in Western Europe, given the late emergence of the Romanian
bourgeoisie. In the writings of Romanian women at the time, women enjoyed remark-
able mobility and access to the city, their social circle, or even international travel, as
well as sexual autonomy; however, the other side of this apparent freedom was vis-
ibility, as well as the threat of violence that followed them in both public and private
In this essay I argue that, through their literary works, Romanian women writ-
ers eectively criticised the expectations of normative middle-class femininity, and I
explore several dimensions of this critique. How did Romanian women writers nar-
rate the gendered experience of the public/private divide in the modern city? How
did they write about womens experiences with visibility in the public sphere? What
were the mechanisms of surveillance that they identied as policing womens action
in public? Did they envisage any space of intimacy, away from the surveilling gaze?
What was considered transgressive behaviour, especially in the domain of sexuality?
How did these writers aempt to negotiate the limits imposed on womens mobility in
the city? These are several of the questions guiding my reading of novels by four Ro-
manian women writers: Hortensia Papadat Bengescu (18761955), Henriee Yvonne
Stahl (19001984), Ioana Postelnicu (19102004) and Anioara Odeanu (19121972).
The feminist critical discourse on interwar Romanian womens writing has to begin
with Hortensia Papadat Bengescu, recognised by literary critics, albeit grudgingly, as
one of the creators of the modern Romanian novel. Henriee Yvonne Stahl and Ioana
Postelnicu enjoyed literary success, including national awards and critical recognition,
and had very long and productive careers; yet, given their critical reception under the
category of feminine literature, they are rarely considered as part of the interwar
Romanian literary canon. They are currently absent from most histories of interwar

Romanian literature, or at best occupy a marginal position; my article argues for a

much needed revision of this meta-narrative. And nally, Anioara Odeanu achieved
literary success through her novels, which were marketed as confessions narrating
the experiences of the modern Romanian woman. Although current accounts of Ro-
manian literature would at best mention her under the heading of regional literature
(she was born in the Banat, one of the provinces acquired by Romania aer 1918), it is
important to study her here because she epitomised the modern interwar sensibility
tuned to fashion and consumption.
The four women writers discussed in the present essay entered the interwar liter-
ary scene as dutiful daughters, advised on their writing, guided in their beginnings,
advertised and published by male-dominated literary circles. Hortensia Papadat
Bengescu published her rst writings in 1913 in the literary magazine Viaa romneasc
(Romanian life), encouraged by its editor-in-chief Garabet Ibrileanu (18711936).
In 1924 the same magazine published the rst novel of Henriee Yvonne Stahl and
awarded her the prize for literary debut.11 From 1919, Papadat Bengescu continued
her literary activity at the literary society Sburtorul (The yer), led by the advocate of
modernism in Romanian literature, Eugen Lovinescu (18811943).12 All of her subse-
quent novels were rst read during meetings of the society, and some were dedicated
to this literary circle. Lovinescu was also the mentor of Ioana Postelnicu, who pub-
lished her rst novel in 1939 following his suggestions, including the choice of pseud-
onym and title. She received the prestigious Romanian Academy Award in 1943 for
her second novel, Bezn (Darkness).13 Camil Petrescu (18941957), one of the members
of Sburtorul and a celebrated modern Romanian novelist, guided the literary steps of
Anioara Odeanu, who claimed to adhere to his aesthetic creed.14
Romanian women had wrien and published before the interwar period, some-
times achieving certain notoriety, such as Veronica Micle (18501889), poet and lover
of national poet, Mihai Eminescu (18501889),15 or Soa Ndejde (18561946).16 Yet the
interwar period witnessed the intensied presence of women writers in ction, poetry,
essays and autobiography. Names that have not been included in this essay, but which
should undoubtedly form the topic of future research, are Cella Serghi (19071992),
Ticu Archip (18801956), Lucia Demetrius (19101922), Alice Voinescu (18851961),17
Cella Delavrancea (18871991), Otilia Cazimir (18941967) and many others.

Feminine Literature

In his history of Romanian literature, literary critic George Clinescu begins the entry
dedicated to Hortensia Papadat Bengescu as follows:

A woman lives in society, and she herself produces individuals. This is why
feminine literature presents two aspects that can easily be reduced to one: there
are moral women, who sing the love of children, home, and civic virtue and
love as an institution, more rarely the fatherland. Then there are women of
the physiological type, who sing unabashedly the desire to procreate, the aspi-
ration to be loved by a man and the joy of bodily living. Psychologically speak-

ing, H. P. Bengescu represents the superior combination of these two aitudes.

Her literature, even the most recent one, pretending to be objective, is a fun-
damentally feminine literature, lacking any interest for general ideas, for the
distant universal nalities, for symbols and for the problem of cosmic death.18

In Clinescus view, feminine literature was fundamentally limited to sentimental

interests and centred on heterosexual romance. This limitation was to be perceived as
a aw, especially once readers understood great literature as literature that is able
to transgress social circumstances and to convey a message of universal validity. Al-
though of superior quality, Papadat Bengescus literature was intimately tied with (and
thus compromised by, Clinescu believed) the authors femininity.
Clinescus musings about femininity echoed Oo Weiningers philosophical best-
seller Geschlecht und Charakter (Sex and character, 1903),19 a book that has made history
as an inuential manifesto of sexism and anti-Semitism across Europe.20 The theory of
congenital bisexuality formulated by Oo Weininger postulated masculinity and fem-
ininity as irreducible essences, while as historical beings individual men and women
were to varying degrees a combination of these two essences, a fact that guaranteed
the innite diversity of psychological traits in the makeup of men and women. As
Michael Pollak claims,

[t]his approach corresponded to a rather general tendency in the human sci-

ences of the time that substituted an empirical approach with types, a sort of
concentration of the evident traits of a phenomenon in a concept. Using these
scientic detours, Weininger reinforces the stereotypes according to which
creativity is the domain of the man, while sensuality and procreation belong
to the woman. Consequently, the most feminine women would be the mothers
and the prostitutes, while the most masculine men would be the geniuses.21

Clinescu, one of the most famous interwar Romanian literary critics, considered
the theory of types of utmost importance. In his studies of literary theory, he claimed
that literary narratives should conform to a list of topics depending on the gender
of the character.22 He also extrapolated Weiningers elaborations on womens roles to
women writers and their literature, oen passing moral judgement on literary char-
acters as well. In the same history of Romanian literature, he wrote that Henriee
Yvonne Stahls literature is feminine because it relies discreetly on the problematic of
womans happiness.23 His comments take on a more moralistic tone, especially when
discussing the plot of one of her novels, in which a heroine has lovers instead of being
legitimately married:

Maria is Sashas lover and one can ask why lover and not wife, to which she
would of course answer by enunciating her right to happiness. The whole
novel relies on a false moral idea, namely that Maria has the right to search
for her happiness. But she is simply a promiscuous woman. All of her other
aspirations to love in the rest of the book are manifestations of an exagger-
ated feminism.24

Clinescus indignant critique was based on judging novelistic heroines according

to the accepted normative models of femininity in Romania. For him as for others,
womens writing, even under the heading of feminine literature, created the danger of
allowing a place where women could engage in or advocate unwarranted behaviour.
As Clinescu argued, womens right to happiness was a false moral idea, and the
literary description of Marias pursuit of love in his view became threatening as symp-
tom of an exaggerated feminism.
Although Clinescu viewed neither Papadat Bengescu nor other women writers
as capable of overcoming their biological limits, Lovinescu, a dedicated supporter of
womens writing as modern literature, viewed the gender narrative dierently. In the
entry dedicated to Papadat Bengescu in his Istoria literaturii romne contemporane, he
explained her success by referring to her ability to overcome her femininity and to
adhere to the masculine value of scientic objectivity in her writing:

Belonging to the Stendhalian class of analysts, she extends her sentimental

life using analysis, through which, together with her honest, almost cynical
aitude towards the phenomena of the soul, and especially towards feminin-
ity, she evades the usual romanticism and subjectivism of feminine literature.
Although the content is exclusively feminine, the aitude of the writer is virile,
without sentimentalism, without tenderness, without sympathy even, coming
from the desire for pure knowledge and achieved through rigorously scien-
tic procedures.25

Recognising Papadat Bengescus canonical status, Lovinescu could assess the merit of
her work by admiring a masculine, objective aitude in her writing. However, even
at its best, Lovinescu and Clinescu considered womens writing inferior to mens, and
both critics dened Papadat Bengescus work by its exclusively feminine content.26
Critics found a similar feminine content in Odeanus novel Cltor din Noaptea de
Ajun (Traveller on Christmas Eve, 1937). In spite of a plot that involved a heroines
travelling to Grenoble, Gingen, Bucharest and her native Banat region, the (mostly
male) critics who reviewed her book noticed mainly the intimate and emotional di-
mensions of Odeanus writing, including her preoccupation with fashion: This lit-
erature belongs to a girl who rst of all pays aention to what sort of fashion she and
other people wear. And she writes down everything the author, very seriously and
maer-of-factly, admires herself in her writing, like any woman in the mirror.27 The
act of writing, with all its implications of critical aitude, is reduced here to a narcis-
sistic act, another accoutrement in the arsenal of feminine aractions for the possible
male viewer, a future husband (note the description of Odeanu as a girl, underlining
her status as an unmarried woman).
The category of feminine literature, mobilised in order to classify women writ-
ers, conveniently neglected the stylistic dimensions or the literary inuences manifest
in their works. It applied equally to Stahl, who came from the naturalist and realist
prose tradition of the nineteenth-century French novel, and to Odeanu, whose preoc-
cupations leaned towards existentialism. Neither the heterogeneity of their literary
inuences, nor generational dierences could guarantee them any particularity in the

feminine literature category. On the contrary, that category connected author and oeu-
vre in a more unmediated way than in the case of male writers, as the possibility of
critical detachment was denied to women: womens literature allegedly was unable to
avoid their much discussed biological destiny, marked by narcissism, sentimentality
and an inability to overcome the narrow circle of their private existence.
My critical account of interwar Romanian womens writing is based on a rejection
of the feminine literature model by postulating Romanian women writers ability to
critically reect upon contemporary gender norms. I argue that the four novels ana-
lysed in this contribution present plots or themes that resist and even question the
divide between public masculinity and private femininity, the constraints of womens
sexual agency, and the normative character of heterosexual romance. A young woman
explores Bucharest on her own and becomes aware of her own visibility in public and
of the constraints regarding her sexual agency in Femeia n faa oglinzii (Woman in front
of the mirror, 1921). A sexually liberated heroine travels across Europe in order to meet
her German anc in Cltor din noaptea de Ajun; a young womans female friend/lover
falls prey to morphine and gradually ruins her life in ntre zi i noapte (Between day
and night, 1942); a young married woman experiences marital rape and aempts to
nd an amorous aachment in an idyll with a stranger (Bogdana, 1937): These are in-
stances in which the ideals of domesticity and private virtue are radically challenged.

The Flneuse in Front of the Mirror

Papadat Bengescus novel Femeia n faa oglinzii belongs to a body of early works marked
by a certain propensity towards introspection and loose narrative structure, yet also
anticipates her later works, with a more structured plot, acclaimed by critics for their
objectivity. The novel is narrated in the third person through the eyes of Manuela,
a single young upper-middle-class woman living in the provinces who occasionally
spends time in Bucharest, frequenting social events as well as exploring the city on her
own. Manuela experiences the world indirectly, through its reection in one or even
two mirrors. At all times she carries with her a small hand mirror and recurrently ex-
plores any specular surfaces she encounters, from mirrors to windows and water sur-
faces. Literary critic Ioan Holban states that Manuela fails to exist on her own except
in front of the reecting surface, and that the mirror represents the terms under which
the identication of the self and the world can exist.28
Manuelas identity is secured through the reection of her body into the various
mirrors she encounters; her specular acts also function as reminders of both her social
status and her position as an unmarried woman. Manuela has to constantly negotiate
her presence in the public space, and we are repeatedly reminded that Manuela vio-
lates the injunction against womens presence in public. As Anke Gleber puts it, the
street does not belong to women. They cannot take possession of it freely without
also expecting to be impeded by public judgements of conventions that cover and
prescribe their images, eectively rendering them objects of the gaze.29 A very thin
line separates the woman-in-public from the public woman, and we see Manuela
uncomfortably threading the border:

She felt they were watching her. She was standing still in front of the weapon
supply shop window. A passer-by, happy to blend into the crowd. Or a woman
waiting for someoneshe repressed a shiver triggered by their scorn. Maybe
planning a suicidethe stupid pity of those both indierent and selsh. Their
silence was telling.30

The silent, projected voices of passers-by follow the woman in public, aware of her
trespassing into a city designed for male exploration and consumption. The possi-
bility of being a passer-by, happy to blend into the crowd is examined and quickly
discarded. The voices actually point to the inappropriateness of a rich young woman
walking on the street and to the actual dangers of being de-classed, scorned and pitied
by strangers. The possibility of suicide is alluded to and links the potential loss of pro-
priety with the loss of property and life.
Manuela is oen positioned in gendered spaces that underline her transgression.
Once, she nds herself in front of a photographic display exhibiting the portrait of a
woman with uncovered shoulders, suggesting nudity. The glass of the display should
oer Manuela the chance to mirror herself, a gendered performance meant to solidify
her identity. Nevertheless, beyond the specular surface, the image of the other woman
upsets the identication process:

She had seen in a shop window a big photograph representing the beautiful
head of a woman dark, her hair dishevelled richly over her exposed shoul-
ders, her arms superbly naked her appearance made you think of antiquity,
that ages respect for plastic shapes, their respect for courtesans, their fatalistic
thinking she seemed like a female preacher on the altar of a cruel human
necessity, the altar of nature and its fatal laws.

Although initially fascinated by the image, Manuela does not hesitate to decode the
anonymous womans exposure as revealing her status as a public woman, maybe even
a prostitute. Manuelas imagination safely transposes the woman into an a-historical
and utopian representation of antiquity, turning her into an archetype and a mytho-
logical gure.
Yet as a gendered viewer, Manuela remembers anxiously her potential lover, Vl-
san, and jealously asks herself whether he would be subjected to the same araction
she had been moments beforethus correctly identifying the projected consumer of
the image. She tries to appease her jealousy by repressing the moment in which she
had inhabited the position of a viewer herself. That woman was ritual and nothing
else. She did not have a soul with countless waves, nor a temperament with hundreds
of whims her wide eyes, full of a shadowy water, were watching all passers-by with
the same lazy indierent gaze, including Manuela.31 Manuela correctly realises that
normative femininity allows women a soul and hundreds of whims, as well as the
promise of a male protector. Unlike the anonymous woman in the display, Manuela
has a subjectivity that is grounded in her conforming to middle-class norms of sexual
repression, given the prevailing sexual double standard in the interwar period, which
allowed Romanian men sexual impulses while Romanian womens sexuality, if ever

mentioned, had to be geared towards reproduction.32 The woman whose sexuality

is displayed in the photograph, maybe a prostitute, poses an unnamed threat, being
able to oer men and potentially Manuelas lover something that she herself could not
without imperilling her own class status.33 Manuelas reaction is two-phased, linking
her two contradictory desires, for the woman and sexuality and for her male lover:
rst, she wishes that she could be that woman, that she could, through some sort of
metempsychosis be able to cross over into that harmonious body,34 in order to se-
duce Vlsan. In a second phase, she decides that he would never be interested in the
other womans charms: Any beauty that would have le him cold, would never have
aracted her. Never is the power of divination stronger than in the phase of love,35
claims Manuela. Divination, metempsychosisthe desire for all these supernatural
phenomena of the soul underscores the material constraints over Manuelas agency. In
the end, she conveniently represses the memory of her own prolonged musings about
antiquity, sexuality and the law of nature, as well as her desire for the other woman
and sexual freedom.
Manuelas walks in the city tentatively explore the limits of normative femininity.
A series of specular acts aempt to tenuously reinforce Manuelas identity, yet are dis-
turbed by the outside that lurks underneath the specular surfaces: the viewers observ-
ing Manuela mirroring herself, and the explicit image of another womans sexuality.
Her araction to Vlsan does not result in a marriage proposal; waiting for an omen
about what to do next, Manuelas hand mirror breaks without any apparent cause. The
specular act is interrupted concomitantly with the failure of the heterosexual couple;
the mirror loses its potential to secure identity, which signies an end to Manuelas
narcissism, with all the liberating potential such a break can bring.

Bogdana: the Jouissance of the Object

Like Hortensia Papadat Bengescu, Ioana Postelnicu read her work-in-progress and
fashioned her novels during the meetings of the literary circle of Sburtorul. Albeit
a generation younger than Papadat Bengescu and Lovinescu himself, Postelnicu at-
tempted to follow their prescriptions of introspective writing and the depiction of city
life, which at the time were considered the quintessence of modern sensibility. Her
rst novel, Bogdana, details the aempted adultery of the eponymous heroine, a young
woman, as well as her critique of marriage as an institution. Bogdanas matrimony is
one of convenience rather than love, based only on the husbands sexual araction
towards his beautiful wife: How the real Bogdana looked like, he didnt know and he
wasnt interested to nd out. He could have met her in the street and wouldnt have
recognised her. She was only body, members, red aming hair and later strange eyes.36
Bogdana experiences her body as a surface, a shiny and dead one lacking depth. The
masculine gaze dismembers her body, perceives fragments of limbs, hair, a face, or,
more rarely, her eyes. The heroines eyes are at rst unnoticed and later strange for
her husband. She is the passive object of her husbands phallic gaze, denied subjectiv-
ity to the extent that she is oen raped by him. Such a scene triggers a paroxysmal
reaction of hate for her body.

I will have to tear my clothes o. I have to; otherwise Ill go crazy. Ill start
laughing and go crazy, she told herself. She felt an intense pity for her lovely
chemise, she would have to tear it apart.
Ha, Ha! She was laughing hard, fully, and with her ngers she was tearing
apart the delicate muslin, her skin, red deep lines were crossing her chest. Her
ngers were digging deeper into her esh, to destroy all the wrappings, going
to her heart.
She was laughing with a dry, demented, wild cry.37

In this hysterical moment, she turns the hate for her husband against herself, at-
tempting to destroy her bodily surfaces in order to set herself free from the gaze that
renders her an object for masculine desire. In the absence of the objectifying gaze,
however, Bogdana experiences her body rather uidly:

It was raining. Small streams were washing the window and the water was ow-
ing, muddy, into the ditch. She was lying on her wide bed. She lied her knees;
her dress slipped uncovering the frame of her stockings, the white strip of her
skin. She was just siing, not doing anything, thinking about nothing. She took
the pencil from the nightstand and began to draw owers on her garters. Thin
nervures, leers braided lazily amongst them, tendrils and leaves. In her being
nothing was consistent, a uid state of oating in an unspecied direction.38

This moment of jouissance relies on uid pleasure, the abolishment of all borders,
continuity, and ow. Absentmindedly Bogdana draws owers on her garters, and the
uninterrupted move of the pencil continues the ow of water. The leers, or plants,
or owers lack limits, they merge, failing to stabilise meaning, owing easily into one
another, an intimate, bodily, writing, feminine writing, as in the work of Luce Irigaray:
This style does not privilege sight; instead it takes each gure back to its source,
which is among other things tactile [italics in original]. It is always uid. Its style
resists and explodes every rmly established form, gure, idea, or concept.39
Bogdanas phone idyll with a stranger at rst seems another escape from the objec-
tifying gaze. The idyll is set into motion by mistake, aer she dials the wrong number.
They continue their conversations purposely later on. Without having encountered
the man, Bogdana is seduced by the voice at the other end of the line: It feels as if
your voice is a wave that engulfs me, cradles me, makes me fall asleep.40 Although
pressured by the unknown man to exchange photographs, meet and start an aair,
she aempts to avoid the objectifying masculine gaze in order to maintain the dreamy
uidity of their aural connection: Other times, when she knew he was not at home,
she would call him and listen to the phone ring in his house. The sound reverberating
on the walls of the room she felt throbbing inside her, as if she were there.41 The man,
however, insists that they exchange photographs and meet. Looking through various
pictures and portraits of herself, Bogdana is unnerved by their imperfection:

She took two or three other pictures from the album and set them next to the
photo with her pleated dress. She looked at them all simultaneously. She would

have liked to take the head from one of them, seing it on top of anothers
body, screwing in it the arms of the third one.42

Bogdana is now ready to perform the dismembering eect herself in order to seduce
the male gaze. Aer sending the photograph in, she meets her lover, yet this time it is
the man who does not pass the test of her gaze, his real-life presence failing to fascinate
In Bogdana, the male gaze objecties the female body, rendering it pure surface,
lifeless. The gaze is never returned, on the contrary, her submission to this visual vio-
lation, and later to the physical one, secures her marriage. In the absence of the male
gaze, Bogdana experiences her body uidly, a feeling she aempts to relive in her
aempted aair with the stranger. De-privileging the sight in favour of the aural or
tactile is subversive, in the tradition of criture fminine, where the unity and coherence
of the phallologocentric discourse are undermined by a lack of denite borders and
separation between subject and object. Bogdanas aempted aair ends up reiterating
the very terms that render her own marriage unbearable, the dismemberment of her
own body necessary in order to seduce the stranger. It may be that the aair is inter-
rupted because it fails to transgress not the law of ownership that ties Bogdana to
her husband, but rather the law of heterosexual contract that turns women into frag-
mented objects for the male gaze.

Anisoara Odeanu: Travels, Fashion and the Artist as a Young Woman

Anioara Odeanu rst achieved literary success with a novel, ntr-un cmin de domnioare
(In a young ladies boarding house, 1934), detailing the life of the modern Romanian
woman. Her second novel, Cltor din noaptea de Ajun, is set against the background of
the Romanian student culture of the 1930s, predominantly religious, nationalistic and
anti-Semitic.43 As historians argue, the fact that Romanian students of the late 1920s
and 1930s turned towards fascism was not unique among the new nation states in East
Central Europe. On the contrary, this propensity, facilitated by the advent of fascism in
Germany and Italy, dovetailed with the historical circumstances of accelerated nation-
building in the recent East Central European states.44
In Cltor din noaptea de Ajun, narrated in the rst person, the heroine is a female
student whose travels and sexual initiation form the narrative substance of the book.
Odeanus writing is anything but political. Her heroine does not comment on the cur-
rent political situation and the whole novel unfolds as if nothing historically signicant
is happening in Europe in 1937. Olga, the main female character, is sexually liberated
and a compulsory traveller across Europe, from Grenoble to Gingen and Bucharest.
Her romance fails to conclude in marriage mainly because of class and cultural dier-
ences between her, an orphan, and her anc, Peter, whom she encounters as a student
during a summer course in Grenoble, but who, as the novel reveals later, belongs to a
family of dignitaries in the Third Reich.
The precariousness of her relationship with Peter and her indeterminate social
status leave her with lile but her own youth as a denitive feature of her identity.

Although the lack of a social networkher tutors are rich peasants who live in Banat,
one of the newly acquired Romanian provinces, yet far from Bucharest, where her life
as a student unfoldsactually enables her spatial and sexual freedom, she sometimes
laments the situation:

Am I ever going to be here again, later, when all these will be long passed
Peter, my dependence on himwhen I will be a real Man [sic]? And will these
ever go away, or is it my destiny to remain forever some sort of a nebula in contin-
uous trouble, lacking everything except I dont know what cosmic nostalgias?45

Her unxed social trajectory prompts Olgas awareness of the reactions of others,
especially when her actions challenge assumptions about normative femininity. While
travelling alone she feels observed by a host of accidental characters upon whom she
projects conventional and respectable lives: What impression did I create to that older
man, who looked like a diplomat, accompanied by his wife, a middle-aged woman,
very respectable, and who I dont know why was looking at me, with a long and curi-
ous gaze?46 Worried about being inappropriate yet continuing to transgress, when
visiting her ancs room she anxiously contemplates an innkeepers face, who an-
swered, trying to smile, with the air of a person who already plans how to gossip
about something just noticed.47
Her German lover, Peter, enjoys her independence, without which their aair
would be impossible, yet still aempts to reinforce norms of femininity: I dont un-
derstand, other girls have a host of nothings, lile boles and jars and boxes, you dont
have anything.48 In response, she does her best to comply, focussing on technologies
of the female body: I am going to wear my blue dress Blue becomes me, it gives my
eyes bluish tones, my face seems paler, my lips more colourful, and it gives me a more
mature air. This is how Im going to be this evening: grave, ceremonious.49 Aer her
relationship with her anc fails, she decides to put more eort into performing her
femininity adequately, especially in her next relationship with Mircea, a young man
whom she dates in Bucharest:

Mircea was not used to people being aracted to me using lile make-up,
with short hair and low heels, I failed to aract aention. It was enough to
start wearing longer, tighter dresses, high heels, thin stockings, and my hair
gathered in curls at my nape, to seem a dierent woman.50

For interwar Romanian writers, clothing formed a topic of serious meditation,

given the democratisation of fashion and consumption that occurred in Europe at the
beginning of the twentieth century. As Sabine Hake claims, the descriptions of the so-
called modern woman revolve around fashion and cultural historians seem to agree
that fashion played an important role in dening modern femininity. The production
of ready-to-wear clothes and their display in department stores rendered fashion more
democratic and turned it into a signier of the modern and the new.51 This specically
modern aitude was practiced by Camil Petrescu, Odeanus mentor, whose charac-
ters in his most famous novel, Patul lui Procust (Procusts bed, 1933), spend pages dis-

cussing not only current fashion, but also the philosophical and social implications
of vestments.
Although Odeanus heroine cannot direct back the gaze towards the male viewer,
she can share its privilege by watching, together with her male partner, another woman.
She was indeed very delicate, she notes, with blue eyes, a childlike face and her ash
blond hair cut straight, a lile curly, like a schoolgirls. I noticed that she was staring
back at me, then she bit her lips and tried awkwardly to look away. The narrator
briey notices, [s]he had my style from last year, instantiating a connection with the
object of the gaze and yet certifying the detachment from a previous, younger, version
of the self.52
In the nal pages of the novel, the young woman narrator aempts to evade the
gaze that objecties her. Aer a failed suicide aempt, we nd her alone in the night,
hugging an old tree. To a certain extent this seems an exit from her condition, a mo-
ment of pantheism that could propel the heroine on a dierent trajectory. Neverthe-
less, the gaze of others follows her in her nightly solitude, where she perceives herself
watched by hostile eyes:

I was going to defend this youth, with my clenched sts and grinding teeth.
And I was breathing even deeper the clean air of the starry night, innitely
repeating, with I dont know what anger towards I dont know what eyes that
I felt were watching me from the air with hostility: I am young and everything
I desire will come true.53

When the disembodied eyes apparently cannot be escaped, the heroine turns away,
towards the tree, closing her eyes and pressing her hands and face against the rough
bark, in an aempt to strengthen the tactile over the visual.
Odeanus novel testies to the anxieties of a liberated young woman who travels
across Europe, is independent, albeit poor, and arms her control over her sexuality.
Her disregard for convention at rst sustains the relationship with Peter, her German
lover; later on, when the two are engaged and desire to get married, he begins to dis-
like her independence. The heroine is constantly aware of being watched, seen and
evaluated, more oen than not in a judgemental way. Although the end of the novel
announces an aempt to escape into a world focussed on tactility (hugging a tree), out-
side of the human realm, she nevertheless perceives herself as being the object of the
hostile gaze, this time disembodied and inescapable. Her retreat into indeterminacy
and potentiality by rearming youth as a value does lile to bring a conclusive end
to her search for marriage and social stability; on the contrary, the only solution to her
identity crisis is to perpetrate it, in the name of youthful age and revolt.

Against the Heteronormative Romance: Henriette Yvonne Stahls Happiness

Henriee Yvonne Stahl achieved success early in her career with a realist novel, Voica
(1924), about the struggle of the eponymous heroine, a peasant woman, for land. Many
of Stahls novels were wrien in the tradition of late-nineteenth-century French natu-

ralism. Although this inuence resulted in graphic descriptions of her characters (of-
ten violent) social environment, diseases and even vices, many of Stahls personages
are also engaged in a search for inner peace, illumination, and ecstatic feelings that
might change their lives, a quest that oen situates them against social norms, espe-
cially in the case of female characters.
In Steaua robilor (The north star, 1934), Maria Mnescu reaches this state of ecstatic
knowledge aer she divorces her husband, which allows her the freedom to experi-
ence her own inner strength. The closing paragraphs of the novel detail her ecstatic
feelings and legitimise her quest:

She felt peaceful and aware of her peacefulness. It seemed that every moment
was an eternity, because everything stopped. Behind her she heard people
coming and going. All of a sudden, like a ood engulng the horizon, her joy
rose, and Maria couldnt understand how she had failed for so long to perceive
how immensely enjoyable it was to look at the world this way.
The sun was blinding her. Maria stretched her hand into the light. The
power of the sunshine had lled the whole world, the whole life.
She closed her eyes. In her heart there was peace and strength.54

The quest for inner peace and meaning oen means disregarding social conven-
tions that link women to the family, yet no regrets or uncertainties mark the heroines
decision to divorce her husband. In the nal paragraphs, passers-by come and go on a
busy street in Bucharest, yet no insecurity marks the heroines presence in public, even
as a recent divorce. On the contrary, both the marriage and her previous relationships
with men acquire an oppressive dimension that are acknowledged once the heroine
realises that she can look at the world in a new way.
ntre zi i noapte has been considered a novel of morphinomania, not inadvertently,
because one of its themes is the gradual destruction of the main female character
(Marta/Zoe) under the inuence of the drug.55 Nevertheless, a secondary theme of the
novel that has received far less critical aention is the love relationship between two
adolescent women: Ana, the focaliser, and Zoe. Zoe is marred by the traumatic expe-
riences of being sexually abused by her stepfather, connement to a sanatorium in
Switzerland against her will, a suicide aempt, and exposure to morphine, which later
becomes an addiction. Zoes hectic family life, including her mothers failed aempts
to secure upper-class status, prompts Anas parents to prohibit her relationship with
Zoe. The two heroines are separated and Zoe gradually succumbs to morphine and
dies in poverty, despite Anas feeble aempts to help her.
Their intense homoerotic aachment begins the moment they accidentally meet in
the waiting room of a doctors oce. Throughout the novel, the two heroines pursue
what they term their friendship, geing closer to each other and aempting to spend as
much time together as possible without any intimation of guilt or inappropriateness:

Her whole life Ana would remember that road they walked together. Every
step was important because every step was conscious. It was like the road to-
wards a new meaning, full of fervour, found in every house, every stone, every

corner. Ana looked around condently. Next to her she heard the step of that
being from which the tenderness of life seemed to start.56

The two young women gaze deeply into each others eyes. During their second
encounter, Zoe had noticed Anas gaze, full of expectation. Their eyes met. Zoes green
eyes suddenly gained such intensity that Ana felt that she could lose herself in them.
She tried to control her emotion.57 The two young women do not create a subject/
object relationship: Ones gaze is returned by the other. Unlike the male gaze that ob-
jecties the female body in a novel such as Postelnicus Bogdana, the two young women
look deeply into each others eyes. Ana again experiences the same danger of losing
herself in Zoes gaze during a scene of lovemaking.

Ana sneaked near Marta. She was cold. She laid her head on her shoulder and
stood still. Marta embraced her. Ana felt her body next to Martas. A happi-
ness, a victory unfolded its wings, enveloping her. Suddenly, unconsciously,
she raised her face. Their lips touched. Ana felt nauseated. Her moan was of
In the weak light of the room, for a moment she saw Martas face so close to
hers and so pale that everything else seemed to wane she feared she would
be lost in that green gaze.
I love you, she whispered but the word le no echo.
Everything was sudden. Ana felt afraid. It seemed that something unbear-
able, irreversible would soon happen.58

The two separate a mere instant before anything irreversible can happen; never-
theless, the scene does not stop here but continues with a description of the two young
women falling asleep and their bodies slowly moving in harmony, unconsciously. The
denitive edition from 1968 reverses the roles, with Zoe initiating the contact and Ana
avoiding it; the scene is much shorter.59
The two female characters resemble each other: early in the novel, when Ana wears
one of Zoes dresses, the likeness deceives even Zoes mother. During their second en-
counter, Zoe wears a black dress, Ana a white one. As the title announces, they simul-
taneously struggle to nd their way between day and night, yet the two characters are
set on opposing trajectories, one of them progressing towards destruction, the other
towards ecstasy. The two young women cannot avoid the logical conclusion of their
circumstances: the end of the novel brings Ana revelation and Zoe death. Aer Zoes
death, Ana nally experiences an ecstatic state that gives meaning, retrospectively, to
her searches.

She woke up that moment. She didnt open her eyes, but stood still with her at-
tention focused inwards. She couldnt feel her own body anymore. Her breath
stopped. For a moment she thought she had died, but suddenly, as if falling
into a new dimension, Ana knew happiness, true happiness, the essential hap-
piness. She discovered the perfection contained in her own heart, her perfect
love for all people.60

Anas ascent, however, could not have happened without Zoes help: Ana thanked
Zoe, as if through her negation, she had helped her nd her happiness.61
Zoe remains in Anas life as a growing experience, an initiation rite to be passed
and remembered aectively aerwards: Zoe is cast as the helper of Annas ascent.
Yet the fact that their relationship is the main plot of the novel gives the two female
characters a unique depth. For the most part away from the objectifying male gaze,
they worry lile about clothing, their reputations or marriage. Instead, they discuss
opposing life philosophies; Ana is preoccupied with spiritual ascension. Their agency
is limited and their world is precarious. Yet the absence of a heteronormative plot and
the detailed descriptions of the exuberance of their rst meetings render the novel
unique in the landscape of the interwar Romanian novel.
Ana, the main character, has access to superior knowledge, to a world of essences
that transcend human norms, including her heterosexual destiny. This knowledge,
experienced ecstatically by the heroine, in the end legitimises her love for Zoe. Simi-
lar to the nal scene in Steaua robilor quoted above, where illumination disavows the
opinions of the various passers-by and legitimises her divorce, Ana enters the world
of revelation aer and as a result of her love for Zoe, inspired by Zoes beauty and un-
happiness. The passionate aachment between two women and their disregard for the
heteronormative society occupy central stage in this novel and are validated through
Anas access to ecstatic knowledge.


In this article I have analysed four novels by Romanian women writers, focussing
on their narration of womens experiences in the urban public sphere and their rejec-
tion of normative femininity geared towards marriage, reproduction and the private
sphere. In opposition to Romanian literary criticism that relegated womens writing
to a category of feminine literature, in which womens writing transparently repro-
duced the norms of femininity, I have argued that the narratives of Romanian women
writers articulated a powerful critique of interwar gender roles. In Hortensia Papadat
Bengescus 1921 novel Femeia n faa oglinzii, the heroine explores the limits to her mo-
bility in the urban space. Ioana Postelnicus Bogdana (1937) criticises the institution of
marriage, denouncing it outright as based on rape and the continuous denial of the
wifes personhood. Adultery seems to oer an alternative to her married life, yet for
the main character, Bogdana, it is one more instance of aempting to please the male
gaze by oering disparate fragments of her body. Empowered by her awareness of
fashion, Anioara Odeanus Olga in Cltor din noaptea de Ajun (1937) tries to control
her image and cultivate feminine behaviour, yet that does not seem to be able to inter-
rupt the ongoing war of the sexes either; the heroine is le with her own youth as an
elusive resource. Finally, in Henriee Yvonne Stahls ntre zi i noapte (1942), the erotic
relationship is between two women, Ana and Zoe, a relationship destroyed by the
laers misfortunes.
Generational dierences separate the way the women negotiate the divide be-
tween public masculinity and private femininity: if in 1921 Manuelas simple walk

in the street triggers the anxiety of feeling exposed and evokes social suicide, in 1937
Odeanus Olga travels alone from Romania to France and Germany. Nevertheless, both
women are highly visible in the public sphere: the mechanisms of surveillance that po-
lice womens presence do not change much. The public gaze, embodied in passers-by,
innkeepers and other episodic characters, continuously watches over the women. Even
the dark air of the night conceals a hostile gaze coming from nowhere, yet directed at
the solitary heroine. The strategies employed by the female characters in order to deal
with this gaze vary widely: in the nal scene, Olga, Odeanus main character, looks
away from a hostile gaze that comes at her from everywhere. Bogdana, in her turn,
escapes the phallic gaze into the realm of the tactile. Interpellated as objects, female
characters look away, or aempt to evade the visual altogether, by revaluing the tactile
or the aural. At the other end of the spectrum, the two young women in Stahls novel
fall in love by gazing deeply into each others eyes, abolishing the separation between
subject and object.
The heroines rarely look back to the male viewer. Sometimes they become aware
of the visibility of other women, together with a male viewer: Olga looks at a passer-
by in whom she identies a younger version of herself. When Manuela sees another
womans photograph, she wonders whether her lover would be aracted to the other
womans image, or whether she could pass into that womans body to entice her lover
with her sexuality. When watching the other woman, the heroines inhabit contradic-
tory positions: they invoke the privilege of the masculine viewer, yet at the same time
they imagine some sort of a connection with the feminine object of the gaze.
If their presence in the public sphere and their independence are censored, never-
theless the private spaces that the female characters inhabit are equally dangerous. De-
nying the assumption of the domestic space as safe, Stahls Zoe suered sexual abuse
in her childhood and Bogdana is raped by her husband. Women are rarely together
by themselves, with the notable exception of Stahls Ana and Zoe, whose relationship
creates a utopian space of intimacy.
In the domain of sexuality, womens aitudes change over the interwar period: if
in 1921 Manuela decries the cruel human necessity of sex while contemplating the
picture of a woman whose nudity is suggested, sixteen years later Bogdana aempts
to control her own sexuality in an aair with a stranger, Olga makes love to her anc
without waiting to get married, while Ana and Zoes intimacy is charged with eroti-
cism and various gestures of love.
In this study I have aempted to create a counter-narrative of Romanian womens
writing between the two world wars. Manuelas broken mirror in Femeia n faa oglinzii
inaugurates a crisis in representation whose consequences loom large.62 Not only is
the mirror broken in Manuelas story: so is the heterosexual romance between private
virtue and public status. The energies released by all the social transformations of the
interwar period bring in scandalous behaviours and new policing instances. The fe-
male characters in the four novels I have discussed document womens experience of
the public/private divide in the urban cities of modern Romania. They are constantly
aware of being visible in all their pursuits, in both the public and private sphere, and
of the host of surveilling agents. The gaze signies social approval, and engenders
them again and again as objects. It signies the limits to womens sexual agency, and

it is meant to permanently reinforce their concern with propriety. If women walk the
city, oen by themselves, spend time with men and generally enjoy the diuse socia-
bility that permeated many aspects of social life in Bucharest between the two world
wars, they were permanently visible, reminded of their status by mechanisms of con-
trol that were both diuse and omnipresent. These narratives testify to the processes
of negotiation that women engaged in during their relentless search for mobility and
sexual agency, as well as the policing mechanisms put into motion by their visibility
in the public sphere.

I would rst like to express my gratitude to Maria Bucur, who encouraged me to sub-
mit this text for publication in Aspasia, and Cornel Ungureanu, who has always gen-
erously supported my research on Romanian women writers. I am also grateful to
many readers who have made excellent suggestions for improving this article: Rose-
mary Hennessy, Lora Wildenthal, Mary Helen Dupree and Kimberly Juanita Brown;
the anonymous reviewers of Aspasia and the participants in the conference The Hour
of Romania at the University of Indiana, Bloomington, in March 2007, most notably
Maria Bucur and Irina Livezeanu. I am also grateful to Christina Zarifopol Illias, who
invited me to submit a paper to the conference. This article has been wrien entirely
while I was in residence as a postdoctoral fellow with the Centre for the Study of
Women, Gender and Sexuality at Rice University.

About the Author

Dr. Voichia Nchescu is currently a postdoctoral fellow with the Centre for the Study
of Women, Gender and Sexuality at Rice University. She received her Ph.D. in Ameri-
can Studies from the State University of New York at Bualo in 2006. Originally from
Romania, she obtained her B.A. from the West University of Timisoara, where she
also received her M.A. in Romanian Literature and Intertextuality. She has a Masters
degree in Cultural Anthropology and Oral History from Timisoara Open College, and
has spent a year in the Doctoral Support Program with the Department of Gender
Studies at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. She writes about the
second wave of the womens movement in the United States and gender and national
identity in modern and post-communist Romania. E-mail:

1. Irina Livezeanu, Cultural Politics in Greater Romania: Regionalism, Nation Building, and Eth-
nic Struggle, 19181930, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995, 8.
2. Various aempts to discuss gender in Romanian literature avoid feminist perspectives
in the critical discourse or even disavow them explicitly. Examples are Sanda Radian, Portrete
feminine n romanul romnesc interbelic (Feminine portraits in the interwar Romanian novel), Bu-
charest: Editura Minerva, 1986; Ioana Prvulescu, Alfabetul doamnelor (The ladies alphabet), and
Corina Ciocrlie, Femei n faa oglinzii (Women in front of the mirror), Cluj Napoca: Echinox,
1992; with varying degrees of sophistication, these studies oer perspectives on female charac-

ters in literary works by modern Romanian writers, following the traditional male-dominated
literary canon. Ileana Orlich reinterprets modern Romanian canonical novels using feminist
approaches to gender and nation in Silent Bodies: (Re)Discovering the Women of Romanian Short
Fiction, New York: Columbia University Press, 2002, and Articulating Gender, Narrating the Na-
tion: Allegorical Femininity in Romanian Fiction, New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
Studies focussing on womens literature include Margarita Miller-Verghy and Ecaterina
Sndulescu, Evoluia scrisului feminin n Romnia (The evolution of womens writing in Romania),
preface by Eugen Lovinescu, Bucharest: Editura Bucovina, 1935, a feminist approach to womens
writing; Liana Cozea, Prozatoare ale literaturii romne moderne (Women writers in modern Roma-
nian literature), Oradea: Biblioteca revistei Familia, 1994, and Cvartet cu prozatoare (A quartet of
women prose writers), Oradea: Biblioteca revistei Familia, 1997, with very detailed overviews
of the lives and works of the writers treated; and Elena Zaharia-Filipa, Studii de literatur fem-
inin (Studies of feminine literature), Bucharest: Editura Paideia, 2004, a collection of essays on
Romanian women writers throughout the twentieth century; unlike Cozia, Zaharia-Filipa ded-
icates a chapter to a critical reading of Eugen Lovinescus concept of feminine literature.
3. Maria Bucur, Eugenics and Modernisation in Interwar Romania, Pisburgh, PA: University
of Pisburgh Press, 2002, 140.
4. Voichia Nchescu, Women Writers in Histories of Romanian Literature, in Seminar
Women and Politics: Women in History/History without Women, eds. Djurdja Knezevic and Ko-
raljka Dilic, Zagreb: Zenska Infoteka, 2001, 155156.
5. The concept was elaborated in the works of Hlne Cixous and Catherine Clment, La
jeune ne, Paris: Union Generale dEditions, 1975; English edition The Newly Born Woman, trans.
Betsy Wing, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986; Luce Irigaray, Ce sexe qui nen
est pas un, Paris: ditions de Minuit, 1977; English edition This Sex Which Is Not One, trans. Ca-
therine Porter with Carolyn Burke, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985; Julia Kristeva, La
rvolution du langage potique: lavant-garde la n du XIXe sicle, Lautramont et Mallarm, Paris:
ditions du Seuil, 1974; English edition Revolution in poetic language, trans. Margaret Waller,
introduction by Leon S. Roudiez, New York: Columbia University Press, 1984. For theoretical
discussions of the concept, see Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory, 2nd
ed., New York: Routledge, 2002, 100146; Rosemary Putnam Tong, Feminist Thought: A More
Comprehensive Introduction, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998, 199206.
6. Keith Hitchins, Rumania 18661947, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994, 345.
7. Janet Wol, The Invisible Flneuse: Women and the Literature of Modernity, in Feminine
Sentences: Essays on Women and Culture, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1990, 47.
8. Elizabeth Wilson, The Sphinx in the City: Urban Life, the Control of the Disorder, and Women,
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991, 9.
9. In a recent essay, Janet Wol advocates a re-conceptualisation of the modern city that
allows us to abandon the kind of corrective analytic which notes womens absence from city
streets, and leaps at any opportunity to nd women who do actually traverse the public arena.
See her Gender and the Haunting of Cities (or, the Retirement of the Flneur), in The Invisible
Flneuse? Gender, Public Space, and Visual Culture in Nineteenth Century Paris, eds. Aruna DSouza
and Tom McDonough, Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2006, 28.
10. See Katharina von Ankum, ed., Women in the Metropolis: Gender and Modernity in Weimar
Culture, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997; Deborah L. Parsons, Streetwalking the
Metropolis: Women, the City, and Modernity, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000; DSouza and
McDonough, The Invisible Flneuse?.
11. Ovidiu S. Crohmlniceanu, Literatura romn ntre cele dou rzboaie mondiale (Romanian
literature between the two world wars), Bucharest: Editura Minerva, 1972, 429430.

12. Sburtorul, literally a person who has the ability to y. This was the title of a nineteenth-
century Romantic poem wrien by Ion Heliade Rdulescu (18021872), considered a monu-
ment of early modern Romanian literature, and adopted as name for the literary society led by
13. See Ioana Postelnicus autobiography, Seva din adncuri (The sap from deep within) Bu-
charest: Editura Minerva, 1985, 224255.
14. See Cornel Ungureanu, Postface, in Anioara Odeanu, ntr-un cmin de domnioare:
Cltor din noaptea de Ajun (In a young ladies boarding house. Traveller on Christmas Eve),
Timioara: Editura Facla, 1985, 445, introduction and aerword by Cornel Ungureanu.
15. Dulcea mea doamn. Eminul meu iubit: Coresponden inedit Mihai Eminescu-Veronica Micle
(My sweet lady. My beloved Emin: New correspondence Mihai Eminescu-Veronica Micle), ed.
Christina Illias Zarifopol, Iai: Editura Polirom, 2000.
16. ktefania Mihilescu, Ndejde, Soa (18561946) in A Biographical Dictionary of Womens
Movements and Feminisms. Central, Eastern, and South Eastern Europe, 19th and 20th Centuries, eds.
Francisca de Haan, Krassimira Daskalova and Anna Lout, Budapest and New York: Central
European University Press, 2006, 360362.
17. Diana Georgescu, Voinescu, Alice Steriadi (18851961), in Ibid., 608612.
18. George Clinescu, Istoria literaturii romne de la origini pn n prezent (History of Roma-
nian literature from its origins until today), 2nd ed., Bucharest: Minerva, 1982, 737738.
19. Oo Weininger, Geschlecht und Charakter: Eine prinzipielle Untersuchung, Vienna, 1903.
Sex and Character: An Investigation of Fundamental Principles, trans. Ladislaus Lb, with an intro-
duction by Daniel Steuer, Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press, 2005.
20. Fragments that parallel Clinescus lines almost word for word read as follows: The
characterological dierences between women are never rooted in the primal soil deeply enough
to result in the formation of an individuality the polar opposite of the type of the mother is
the type of the prostitute (Weininger, Sex and Character, 188189).
21. Michael Pollak, Vienne 1900: Une identit blesse (Vienna 1900: A wounded identity),
Paris: Gallimard/Julliard, 1984, 184.
22. George Clinescu, Individ i tip (Individual and type), Adevrul literar i artistic (The
literary and artistic truth) vol. 18, no. 885 (1937): 15.
23. Clinescu, Istoria literaturii romne, 672.
24. Ibid., 742.
25. Eugen Lovinescu, Istoria literaturii romne contemporane: 19001937 (History of contem-
porary Romanian literature: 19001937), Bucharest: Editura Minerva, 1989, 243.
26. Elena Zaharia-Filipa explores the various meanings femininity takes in Lovinescus
work, such as biological instinct, shyness, the feminine mystery, sentimentalism, lyricism, and
subjectivity. See Studii de literatur feminin, 710.
27. Ovidiu Papadima, Literatura feminin (Feminine literature), Gndirea (The thought)
vol. 16, no. 2 (1937): 9091.
28. Ioan Holban, Hortensia Papadat-Bengescu, Bucharest: Editura Albatros, 1985, 28.
29. Anke Gleber, Female Flanerie and the Symphonie of the City, in Women in the Metropolis,
ed. Von Ankum, 6788, quote on 72.
30. Papadat Bengescu, Femeia n faa oglinzii (Woman in front of the mirror), Opere (Works),
Bucharest: Editura Minerva, 1972, vol. 1, 283.
31. Ibid., 350.
32. Maria Bucur, Fallen Women and Necessary Evils: Eugenicist Cultural Representations
of and Legal Bales over Prostitution in Interwar Romania, in Blood and Homeland: Eugenics
and Racial Nationalism in Central and Southeast Europe, 19001940, eds. Marius Turda and Paul J.
Weindling, Budapest: Central European University Press, 2006, 338.

33. During the interwar period, prostitution formed the object of the eugenicist discourse
and of various legislative initiatives. The main concern regarded the transmission of sexual
diseases; in this context, aempts were made to oer prostitutes several ways of social reinte-
gration, although these measures targeted mostly prostitutes of Romanian origin. See Bucur,
Fallen Women.
34. Papadat Bengescu, Femeia n faa oglinzii, 349.
35. Ibid., 351.
36. Ioana Postelnicu, Bogdana, Bucharest: Editura Minerva, 1979, 84.
37. Ibid., 120.
38. Ibid., 125.
39. Irigaray, This Sex, 79.
40. Postelnicu, Bogdana, 130.
41. Ibid., 132.
42. Ibid., 78.
43. Livezeanu, Cultural Politics, 301.
44. Ibid., 306307.
45. Odeanu, Cltor, 316.
46. Ibid., 214.
47. Ibid., 300.
48. Ibid., 319.
49. Ibid., 250.
50. Ibid., 422.
51. Sabina Hake, In the Mirror of Fashion, in Women in the Metropolis, ed. Von Ankum,
185201, quote on 185.
52. Odeanu, Cltor, 428.
53. Ibid., 439.
54. Henriee Yvonne Stahl, Steaua robilor (The north star), Bucharest: Editura Minerva,
1979, 229.
55 In her memoirs, wrien a few years before her death, Stahl claimed that her novel ntre
zi i noapte was inspired by an autobiographical incident, her real-life friendship with a young
woman, Zoe Mihalcea Vrnceanu, whose name was changed to Marta in the rst edition of the
novel, and restored back to Zoe in the nal edition. See Mihaela Cristea and Henriee Yvonne
Stahl, Mihaela Cristea de vorba cu Henriee Yvonne Stahl (Mihaela Cristea in conversation with
Henriee Yvonne Stahl), Bucharest: Editura Minerva, 1996, 121.
56. Henriee Yvonne Stahl, ntre zi i noapte (Between day and night), 2nd ed., Bucharest:
Editura pentru literatur, 1968, 10.
57. Ibid., 7.
58. Henriee Yvonne Stahl, ntre zi i noapte, Bucharest: Editura contemporan, 1942, 119.
59. Stahl, ntre zi i noapte, 2nd ed., 6364.
60. Ibid., 342.
61. Ibid., 344.
62. See Ciocrlie, Femei n faa oglinzii, 6.