My current primary research project explores the ways in which five major Russian authors—Yury Olesha, Vladimir Nabokov, Andrei Bitov, Sasha Sokolov, and Mikhail Shishkin—responded to James Joyce, his texts, and his persona. While keeping in mind these writers’ diverse biographical, historical, and cultural contexts, I use Joyce as a comparative prism to understand better the ways they address critical issues in their novels, namely the influence of the past, generational conflict, and the possibility of inscribing oneself into history through art. This study likewise reveals that while these authors responded to Joyce in their own particular ways and, therefore, their work reflects changes in cultural values throughout the long twentieth century, a Russian Joycean tradition complete with representative features (images, themes, devices) can nevertheless be discerned. 

Now in its early stages, “The Poetics of Resignation in Russian Modernism” is the subject of my next manuscript-length project. It continues my interdisciplinary interests to trace Russian Modernists’ tendency toward capitulation. This study will examine writers such as Evgeny Zamiatin, Daniil Kharms, and Boris Pasternak. Despite the era’s focus on individual will, these authors’ protagonists, particularly those who are artists, experience a paradoxical need to capitulate. By positioning this question within a context broader than the political or religious, the peculiarities of the Russian perspective can be thrown into greater relief. My goals are thus 1.) to formulate a deeper understanding of this trope and its philosophical underpinnings by drawing on writings regarding resignation by philosophers who were widely read in Russia and 2.) to contextualize the Russian situation within a more global perspective of international Modernisms.

I have published articles on Iurii Olesha's dialogue with Joyce in his novel Envy, on the multilingual Czech surrealist poet Ivan Blatný, and on photographic motifs in Andrei Bitov's prose. My analysis of Daniil Kharms's short story "Blue Notebook No.10" through the lens of cognitive linguistics has also been featured in an edited volume on ethnolinguistics.

Photo by Claire Mason