Reading group, 24 May: Jeremy Hicks on ‘The Volga Famine of 1921: Film and the Aid Campaign in Britain’

The international famine relief campaign to Soviet Russian in 1921 and 1922 is often seen as a turning point in humanitarianism, in the scale and scope of the efforts. But it also marks a key moment in the evolution of the media by which the appeals were made, with film playing an important role for the first time, notably with the first film ever made by Save the Children Fund, in Britain. This talk examines the reasons why this film came to be made, examining its production and reception in the context of the wider debates across the British media about the aid campaign, other films made and distributed in Britain at the time, and the history of documentary film.

Attendance is on Zoom. Tickets are free, but registration on Eventbrite is essential:

Prof. Jeremy Hicks is Professor of Russian Culture and Film at Queen Mary University of London where he teaches courses on Russian film history and literature. He is the author of four books and many articles on Russian and Soviet history, film, literature and journalism, His publications include: Dziga Vertov: Defining Documentary Film (London and New York, 2007) and First Films of the Holocaust: Soviet Cinema and the Genocide of the Jews, 1938-46 (Pittsburgh, 2012), which won the 2013 ASEEES Wayne Vucinich Prize ‘for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences.’ His most recent book is: The Victory Banner over the Reichstag: Film, Document and Ritual in Russia’s Contested Memory of World War Two (Pittsburgh 2020). He is currently researching the relationship between film and the international famine relief campaign to Russia in 1921.

He has also been a consultant on a number of TV documentary films and the restoration of a film about the Holocaust and translated the Russian satirical writer, Mikhail Zoshchenko (The Galosh: Selected Short Stories, London: Angel Books, 2000; New York: Overlook Press, 2006, 2009).

Jeremy Hicks is a member of ASEEES, British Association for Slavonic and European Studies, the Modern Humanities Research Association (UK), and sits on the Council of the Society for Co-operation in Russian and Soviet Studies (UK).

CfP: Anglo-Russian Research Network conference, 21-22 July 2022 

The Anglo-Russian Research Network (ARRN) is pleased to announce a conference to be held in-person at the University of Exeter on Thursday 21-Friday 22 July 2022.  

We welcome proposals for panels and individual papers on any aspect of Anglo-Russian cultural relations, broadly defined, from the late nineteenth century (c. 1850 onwards) to the present day, and from all relevant disciplines, including, but not limited to:  

  • History 
  • Art history 
  • Literary, translation and reception studies 
  • Film studies 
  • Migration/diaspora studies 

Within these fields of study, we would especially encourage proposals for papers that either adopt a comparative perspective, exploring Russian and British interpretations of the same subject matter (cultural phenomenon, idea, discourse or historical event) as a unified whole, or which otherwise consider Anglo-Russian connections as a shared cultural space. Potential topics could include shared socio-cultural traditions (e.g. tea-drinking), literary reception histories (e.g. of Goethe’s Faust in the Russian Silver Age and British modernism), or the role of Russian emigres and travellers in Britain as cultural mediators (and vice versa).  

The working language of the conference is English, but submissions in Russian are also welcome. We will support virtual participation (via Zoom) for those unwilling or unable to attend in person.  

We are able to provide a modest amount of financial support (capped at £300 per person) for international delegates towards the cost of flights, internal transfers and accommodation. This support will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, with priority given to scholars without access to institutional funds. 

If you are interested in giving a paper, please contact the organisers (Ben Phillips, Nicholas Hall and Anna Maslenova) at Individual paper proposals (title + c. 250 word abstract) should be submitted by Friday 6 May 2022.  

The organisers hope that this conference will make a small contribution, in its own way, to the preservation of cultural dialogue in these dark times.

Talk: José Vergara on James Joyce in Russian literature

The Anglo-Russian Research Network is pleased to announce our first event for 2022: ‘All Future Plunges to the Past: James Joyce in Russian Literature’ by José Vergara, an Assistant Professor of Russian at Bryn Mawr College.

While James Joyce’s place in the modernist pantheon is firmly entrenched, its resonances continue to be uncovered. In the Russian context, the Irish writer has occupied many roles since his work was first translated in the mid-1920s. This talk will trace the development not of a monolithic Joyce, but rather of multiple Russian Joyces — the versions of the author imagined by his Russian readers. Join us for a tour of the Joycean strains in the work of several writers who drew from their predecessor’s texts, particularly Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, to address the volatile questions of lineages in their respective Soviet, émigré, and post-Soviet contexts. As a coda, selections from interviews with contemporary authors will show how the debates regarding Joyce’s legacy are no less settled a century after Ulysses.

José Vergara specializes in prose of the long twentieth century, with an emphasis on experimental works. His first book, All Future Plunges to the Past: James Joyce in Russian Literature, examines Russian writers’ reception of Joyce’s fiction. It illuminates how they have used Joyce’s ideas as a critical lens to shape, prod, and constantly redefine their own place in literary history. He has published on authors including Vladimir Nabokov, Mikhail Shishkin, and Sasha Sokolov, among others, in a variety of journals, and his writing and interviews can also be found in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Asymptote, Words without Borders, and Music & Literature. He is now at work on new projects including studies of contemporary Russian prison literature and transnational representations of Chernobyl, as well as an annotated bilingual digital edition of Sokolov’s Between Dog and Wolf.

This event will be held on Zoom. Registration is free, but, as always, essential:

Professor Marina Tsvetkova, ‘The reception of Marina Tsvetaeva in Britain’ – Talk now available on YouTube

In our first seminar for Winter 2021-22, we were joined by Professor Marina Tsvetkova of the Higher School of Economics, Nizhni-Novgorod, for a fascinating (and somewhat provocative!) look at the reception of Marina Tsvetaeva in Britain. Professor Tsvetkova gave an overview of translations of Tsvetaeva, and then guided the group through a comparison of a particular English translation with the Russian original. This was followed by a long and varied discussion.

ARRN Reading Group: Marina Tsvetkova on the reception of Marina Tsvetaeva in Britain – online, 5pm 7 December

The Anglo-Russian Research Network is delighted to announce a talk by Professor Marina Tsvetkova (Higher School of Economics, Nizhnii Novgorod) on poetry of Marina Tsvetaeva in English translation.

Every writer, when translated into other languages, acquires new “faces” that resemble them no more than portraits resemble their model. Since Marina Tsvetaeva was introduced to the British literary scene by D.S. Sviatopolk-Mirskii in his Anthology of Russian Poetry (1924), she has acquired multiple “faces” in translations by Donald McDuff, Elaine Feinstein, Christopher White, and others. This reading group will conduct an interactive analysis, led by Professor Tsvetkova. It will consider Tsvetaeva’s poem “An Attempt at Jealousy” (Popytka revnosti) and its translation by Elaine Feinstein, to identify the transformations that happened to the Russian poem when translated into the English amd to pin-point one of the “faces” Tsvetaeva has received in Britain.

Professor Marina Tsvetkova is Professor of Literature at the Higher School of Economics (Nizhnii Novgorod). Her area of expertise encompasses different facets of Russian-British cultural interactions: the reception of Russian poetry and prose in Britain, and vice versa; translation of Russian literature into English; cross-cultural “inter-semiotic translation”, such as in film and comic book adaptation of literary classics. Marina Tsvetkova has taught as a visiting professor and given guest lectures in France, Brazil, Italy, USA, and Poland. This event will be held on Zoom.

Eventbrite registration is free, but, as always, essential. The details are here.

Professor Tsvetkova has prepared a primer, consisting of the Russian original of ‘An Attempt at Jealousy’ and the translation into English by Elaine Feinstein, along with some points she will be considering during her talk. It can be found below.

A recording of Dr Katherine Bowers’s 25 May talk on ‘Radcliffiana and the Russian Gothic Wave’, is now available on YouTube

In the third ARRN seminar of 2021, we were joined by Dr Katherine Bowers for a deep dive into the reception of the English Gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe in Russia. Why were so many novels falsely attributed to Radcliffe (alongside her actual work) in the early nineteenth century, and what can such publishing microhistories tell us about Russian, and transnational, literary culture at the time?

The talk is now available on YouTube.

ARRN Summer Events – Maria Krivosheina and Sveta Yefimenko

We are pleased two announce two Anglo-Russian Research Network events for summer 2021. Both these events are on Zoom, and details and links to the Eventbrite booking pages are below.

21 June – Maria Krivosheina on Russian literature, modernism and the British press

The New Age (1907-1922), a controversial British weekly, is well-known as an arena for heated debates on culture, arts, and politics. Russian literature stands out in the eclectic subject array of the magazine as one of the most frequently and fervently discussed topics. The New Age played a crucial role in dissemination of Russian culture in Edwardian and WWI Britain and to a large extent contributed to the ever-growing fashion for Russian fiction and poetry, most notably via the mechanism of constant polemics (including interperiodical ‘polemical networking’). This talk will focus on The New Age in context: comparison with The Egoist (1914-1919), another influential little magazine, allows us to trace how the discussion of Russian literature reflected the attempts of two prominent intellectual circles to comprehend the challenges of modernity. Looking at polemics as the principal editorial strategy of both titles, this talk will examine how debates around Russian authors fit into a number of discourses, pivotal for Anglo-American modernism: cultural and historical continuity, powers and limitations of language, functions of literature and literary criticism in the changing society, importance of cross-cultural literacy, understanding “the Other”. Furthermore, the talk will discuss the contribution of notable Anglo-Russian mediators into the cultural exchange between two empires, as individual figures as well as the agents of a broader network (Alfred Orage, C.E. Bechhofer, Paul Selver, John Cournos, and other authors).

21 July – Sveta Yefimenko, ‘Tolstoy On & In England’

Tolstoy arrived in London in March 1861. Exactly how much time he spent in the city is a matter of debate; however, whether his stay lasted twenty days or six weeks (Tolstoy claimed both at different times), the brief visit was productive and left a lasting impression on him. He toured English schoolrooms, visited Alexander Herzen’s home, was bored by Lord Palmerston’s speech at the House of Commons, wandered almost daily through the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum), met Matthew Arnold (maybe), and heard Charles Dickens speak (maybe), all while suffering from a debilitating toothache. A month after his departure, Tolstoy remarks ungratefully in his journal that London left him with ‘a disgust for civilization.’

In this talk, I will draw on Tolstoy’s letters, a draft for his short story “Lucerne” (“Liutsern,” 1857), his journal entries, and his published didactic articles, to examine Tolstoy’s attitude to both England and the English people, and how this attitude changed throughout his life. We will consider the following questions: What brought Tolstoy to London and what did he accomplish there? What did Tolstoy think of England prior to his arrival in London, particularly following his 1857 sojourn to Paris? Did the 1861 journey to London alter his view? How did the English education system contribute to Tolstoy’s own involvement with educational reform in Russia? Finally, why did Tolstoy spontaneously decide to emigrate to England in 1872 – to ‘settle first somewhere near London, and then find a beautiful and healthy spot near the sea’ – despite his professed disdain for Europe? In considering these questions, we will gain a deeper insight into Tolstoy’s critique of European civilization that informed so much of his writing and thought.

Re-scheduled ONLINE EVENT: Dr Katherine Bowers on ‘Ghost Writing: Radcliffiana and the Russian Gothic Wave’

Dr Katherine Bowers on ‘Ghost Writing: Radcliffiana and the Russian Gothic Wave

This talk will discuss the phenomenon of Radcliffiana in the context of early nineteenth-century Russian literary culture. English gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe’s writing was extremely popular in Russia. Indeed, so popular that books by other authors were frequently attributed to her and translators found it more expedient to write new gothic novels under Radcliffe’s name than to translate existing ones. The talk will give an overview of Russian Radcliffiana and its influence on readers and writers in nineteenth-century Russia. What was more influential, Radcliffe or the bevy of ghost-written and mis-attributed works that bear her name? How did Russian critics react to women novelists? And how did this Radcliffiana shape Russian literature of the nineteenth century for decades after Radcliffe’s final work? In addressing these questions, the talk will examine the curious phenomenon of transnational and transcultural literary ghostwriting and its role in creating Radcliffe’s Russian identity.

Dr Katherine Bowers is Associate Professor of Slavic Studies at the University of British Columbia. She is an expert in Russian literature and culture, whose research interests include genre, narrative, and imagined geography. Her first monograph, Writing Fear: Russian Realism and the Gothic, is forthcoming with University of Toronto Press.

Tuesday 25 May 2021, on Zoom, 6pm GMT.

As before, signups are handled on Eventbrite, and are free.