Tusap, Srbuhi (1841–1901)

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Tusap, Srbuhi (1841–1901)

Armenian poet, novelist, and feminist. Born in 1841 in Constantinople; died in 1901; married Paul Tusap (a music teacher), in 1871; children: Dorine (d. 1890).

Selected writings:

Mayda (1883); Siranoush (1885); Arak'sya kam Varjouhin (A. or the Teacher, 1887).

Srbuhi Tusap was born in 1841 in Constantinople, when the Ottoman Empire was in the midst of the Tanzimat Reform. Armenian writers and thinkers had already initiated a literary and social revival. Tusap was raised with a fluency in French, Italian, and Greek, and during her youth she mastered the works of Victor Hugo and George Sand . At age 22, she met the Armenian poet Mkrtitch Peshikt'ashlian, who became her mentor. In 1871, she married her music teacher, Paul Tusap.

During the 1880s, Srbuhi Tusap gained recognition as a writer, social activist, and public speaker. She was the first Armenian feminist and woman writer, the leader of a literary salon, and a member of the group of writers known as the "Renascence Generation." Her three novels, dozens of poems, and articles are significant as 19th-century examples of literature that championed feminist principles. She encouraged writers to use the Armenian language and wrote numerous articles about women's rights.

Tusap's first book, 1883's Mayda, influenced by her earlier reading of Rousseau, Goethe, and Sand, was the first novel in Armenian written by a woman, as well as the first to espouse women's rights. Written in the form of correspondence between two women, Siri and Mayda, it relates the stories of their lives. Although considered melodramatic and contrived, it advanced the idea that women were essentially slaves and needed to liberate themselves through education, work, and meaningful life choices. The book was criticized from all sides as an attack on Armenian family and social life. In Tusap's second novel, Siranoush (1885), the title character is coerced into an arranged marriage instead of marrying the man she loves and ends up being abused by her jealous, unfaithful husband. Arak'sya kam Varjouhin (A. or the Teacher, 1887), her third novel, features a schoolteacher whose lover is stolen by a more wealthy woman.

Tusap's daughter Dorine became ill with tuberculosis in 1889 and died the following year. Grief-stricken over this loss, Tusap never wrote again. She died in 1901.

sources:

Pynsent, Robert B., ed. Reader's Encyclopedia of Eastern European Literature. NY: HarperCollins, 1993.

Kelly Winters , freelance writer

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Tusap, Srbuhi (1841–1901)

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