Tag Archive for Russian Department

Fusso Translates Gandlevsky’s Trepanation of the Skull

Susanne Fusso, professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, is the translator of Sergey Gandlevsky’s autobiographical novel, Trepanation of the Skull, published in November from Northern Illinois University Press.

Sergey Gandlevsky is widely recognized as one of the leading living Russian poets and prose writers. His autobiographical novella Trepanation of the Skull is a portrait of the artist as a young late-Soviet man. At the center of the narrative are Gandlevsky’s brain tumor, surgery and recovery in the early 1990s. The story radiates out, relaying the poet’s personal history through 1994, including his unique perspective on the 1991 coup by Communist hardliners resisted by Boris Yeltsin. Gandlevsky tells wonderfully strange but true episodes from the bohemian life he and his literary companions led. He also frankly describes his epic alcoholism and his ambivalent adjustment to marriage and fatherhood.

Fusso’s translation marks the first volume in English of Sergey Gandlevsky’s prose. The book may appeal to scholars, students, and general readers of Russian literature and culture of the late Soviet and post-Soviet periods.

Fusso also is the translator and editor of Vladimir Sergeevich Trubetskoi’s A Russian Prince in the Soviet State: Hunting Stories, Letters from Exile, and Military Memoirs.

Fusso Speaks on Novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky at Brown University

Susanne Fusso, professor of Russian, East European and Eurasian studies, delivered a paper at a symposium on “Dostoevsky beyond Dostoevsky,” held at Brown University, March 15-16. Merging Darwinian theory, Romantic poetry and the complexities of human morality, the Dostoevsky symposium offered multiple perspectives on novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky’s work.

Fusso’s paper was titled “Prelude to a Collaboration: Dostoevsky’s Aesthetic Polemic with Mikhail Katkov.”

The conference was attended by scholars from Yale, Columbia, Duke, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, St. Petersburg State University, Brandeis, University of California – San Diego, and other institutions.

Meyer Presents Paper at Vladimir Nabokov Museum

Rachel Trousdale and Priscilla Meyer stand on the landing of the Nabokov Museum at 47 Bol'shaya Morskaya Street in St. Petersburg.

Rachel Trousdale and Priscilla Meyer stand on the landing of the Nabokov Museum at 47 Bol’shaya Morskaya Street in St. Petersburg.

Chair of the Russian Language and Literature Department Priscilla Meyer and her daughter, Rachel Trousdale, an associate professor at Agnes Scott College, co-authored a paper. The paper, “Vladimir Nabokov and Virginia Woolf,” will appear in the coming issue of Comparative Literature Studies. A Penn State Press publication, Comparative Literature Studies “publishes comparative articles in literature and culture, critical theory, and cultural and literary relations within and beyond the Western tradition.”

Vladimir Nabokov was a Russian-born novelist, most known for his book, Lolita (1955). He also founded Wellesley College’s Russian Department and was a distinguished entomologist.

In July, Meyer and Trousdale presented two sections of the paper at the “Nabokov Readings,” a conference held annually in the Nabokov Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

In addition, the Nabokov Society of Japan invited Meyer to speak at the Kyoto conference in November 2013. In Japan, scholars of Russian and English literature traditionally studied Nabokov’s works separately without the benefit of a common forum for discussion. The Nabokov Society of Japan organizes two scholarly conferences every year in order to allow scholars and fans of Nabokov to discuss their research and ideas.

Battle for the Future: Smolkin-Rothrock on the Spiritual Life of Soviet Atheism

(Story contributed by Jim H. Smith)

Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock

Its official name was the Century 21 Exhibition, but it was better known as the Seattle World Fair, and it seemed to be an unambiguous statement about America’s aspirations for its future. Boasting a futuristic monorail and an iconic Space Needle whose elevators were piloted by female attendants wearing excessive blue eye shadow and costumes out of a Hollywood sci-fi feature, it came to hold totemic significance for a nation whose philosophical differences with the Soviet Union were being sorted out against the majestic backdrop of outer space.

One of the first visitors to the 1962 fair was Soviet cosmonaut German Titov, the second Soviet man in space after Yuri Gagarin, the youngest spaceman (a record that stands to this day), and the first to orbit the Earth repeatedly. In his homeland Titov was nothing less than a demi-God.

During a news conference in Seattle, Titov was asked whether his adventures in the cosmos had altered his worldview. “Up to our first orbital flight by Yuri Gagarin no God helped build our rocket,” said the cosmonaut, who perceived the subtext of the question. “The rocket was made by our people. I don’t believe in God. I believe in man, his strength, his possibilities and his reason.”

It was, says Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of Russian and Eastern European studies, a statement that bespoke the essence of the Soviet Union’s long, strange struggle to supplant traditional religions throughout the empire with “scientific atheism.” If it provoked an outcry across America, well, that was Titov’s intent.

During the 1960s, as Smolkin-Rothrock notes, Titov and his fellow cosmonauts “were the public face of Communism on the world stage, and their triumphs and charisma put forward a confident image of a Communist state that could solve all problems and answer all questions, material and spiritual.”

On Oct. 18, Smolkin-Rothrock delivered this year’s prestigious Sherman Emerging Scholar Lecture at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Her address, which began with the Titov story, offered an analysis of Communism’s little-known efforts to manage the collective spiritual life of the Soviet people.

Smolkin-Rothrock Delivers Lecture on Soviet Atheism

Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock

Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock

Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of Russian and Eastern European studies, tutor in the College of Social Studies, delivered the Sherman Emerging Scholar Lecture titled “A Sacred Space: The Spiritual Life of Soviet Atheism” Oct. 18 at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

Paul Townsend, chairman of the History Department at N.C. Wilmington, said Smolkin-Rothrock was chosen because her work “explored the connections between art, culture and history.”

A native of Ukraine, Smolkin-Rothrock studied at Sarah Lawrence College and received her master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. She has published articles on “scientific atheism” and the Soviet space program.

 More information on her talk appeared in the Oct. 15 StarNews. Read more about Smolkin-Rothrock in this December 2010 Wesleyan Connection article.

Meyer Participates in Russian Paper’s 100th Anniversary

Priscilla Meyer, professor of Russian language and literature, chair of the Russian Department, professor of Russian and Eastern European studies, presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Valery (Lawrence) Wainberg, editor of the oldest Russian-language newspaper in the United States, The New Russian Word. Meyer participated in the 100th anniversary of the newspaper's existence and the 21st anniversary of the founding of the Russian division of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA). The celebration took place at the Park Avenue synagogue in New York in June.

Meyer Author of Russian, French Literature Book

Meyer book

Priscilla Meyer, professor of Russian language and literature, is the author of How the Russians Read the French: Lermontov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, published in January 2009 by the University of Wisconsin Press.

In How the Russians Read the French, Meyer shows how Mikhail Lermontov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Lev Tolstoy engaged with French literature and culture to define their own positions as Russian writers with specifically Russian aesthetics and moral values. Rejecting French sensationalism and what they perceived as a lack of spirituality among Westerners, these three writers created moral and philosophical works of art that answered French decadence and “desacralization” with countertexts drawn from Russian literature and the Gospels.

Meyer argues that each of these great Russian authors takes the French tradition as a thesis, proposes his own antithesis, and creates in his novel a genuinely Russian synthesis rather than an imitation of Western models.