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Statement

My research sheds new light on Russian modernism by engaging with the interdisciplinary methods of gender studies and the environmental humanities. My first book, Beyond the Flesh: Alexander Blok, Zinaida Gippius, and the Symbolist Sublimation of Sex, was devoted to the problem of gender and self-creation in the life and art of two of Russia's foremost symbolist poets. I am currently completing my second book, Landscape of Disaster: Italy and the Geopoetics of Russian Modernism, which illuminates how environmental upheaval served as a potent force in Russian modernism's transnational turn. Contrary to the view that catastrophism is inherently antithetical to the telos of modernity, this study reveals that for a host of Russian writers—Alexander Blok, Zinaida Gippius, Maxim Gorky, Vladislav Khodasevich, and Vladimir Nabokov—modernity and catastrophe were, in fact, deeply entangled. Critical of the dominant cultural narrative of progress, these authors became fascinated with the myriad natural disasters embedded in the deep history of southern Italy, ranging from the 1908 Messina earthquake—the most devastating seismic event in modern Europe—to the 79 C.E. eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii. For all their distance and volatility, these landscapes provided fertile ground for the mapping of Russian cultural concerns in an era dominated by war, revolution, and exile. They inspired an alternative strain of Russian modernism rooted not in Europe’s metropolitan centers but rather in the elemental forces of the continent's southern periphery.

Broadening the scope of this work, I have collaborated with Anindita Banerjee (Cornell University) on special issues of Slavic Review and Slavic and East European Journal on Russian Geopoetics and The 1917 Revolution and Its Ripple Effects. I have also begun researching a new book project, which builds on my work on geopoetics and my longstanding interests in Russian-American culture. Provisionally titled Adjacent Ecologies: Russian-American Art in the Pacific Northwest, this study examines how the vast region spanning from Alaska to northern California emerged as a critical contact zone for Russian-American artists and writers. Figures treated in this study range from the popular writer Antonina Riasanovsky, who immigrated to Eugene, OR in the late thirties and wrote a blockbuster novel about Russian émigrés in China under the pen name "Nina Fedorova," to Vladimir Nabokov, who spent the summer of 1953 in Ashland, OR and subsequently proclaimed: “The flora, the fauna, the air of the Western states are my links with Asiatic and Arctic Russia.” Attending to the issues of postcolonialism, immigration, and the environment, the project makes a case for the importance of the region to Russian-American culture. It expands our understanding of the location of Russian-American culture beyond the New York metropolitan area, which has typically been considered to be its center, positing the Pacific Northwest as a rich site of both local creativity and transpacific cultural flow.