How to Write the Biography of a Prostitute from the Middle of the 19th Century? Therese Grünwaldt’s Letters to Nikolai Dobroliubov
The article aims at exploring the unique private letters of a St Petersburg German prostitute Therese Grunwaldt to famous radical critic Nikolai Dobroliubov, 1858-1860. On the basis of these documents and other archive materials from Russian and Estonian archives, the author reconstructs Grunwaldt’s dramatic biography and contextualizes her life-trajectory. This case demonstrates how such data can contribute to the investigation of the private life of marginal people and prostitutes in particular. The methodological framework of the study comprises socio-cultural contextualization, exploration of Grunwaldt’s private life, study of her self-presentation and emotional patterns in her letters, comparative perspective (another, French, prostitute whose letters survived in Dobroliubov’s archive), and attempt to consider the discursive dimension of the issue. Such broad perspective enables to demonstrate that Grunwaldt’s case was not typical for a Russian prostitute of the 1850s.