Modern Languages Open

This week has seen the launch of Modern Languages Open, an open access publishing platform for scholarly research in all modern languages and their cultures – one of the most exciting aspects of the project is that it brings a more global perspective to a field that has traditionally defined itself in relation to Europe and its diasporas. As […]

Katorga and exile illustrated

Whilst planning a section of my chapter on pre-revolutionary works on Siberian prison and exile, I’ve been considering the role of images as well as the words, as many of the books I’ve been reading – at least most of those published after around 1880 in the UK and the States, and after around 1900 […]

Convicts and serfs: two books on Russian penal reform

I’m currently reading and re-reading material for a chapter of my book on narratives of prison, exile and hard labour, and have a few thoughts to put in order in relation to two books on Russian penal reform: Bruce F. Adams, The Politics of Punishment: Prison Reform in Russia 1863-1917 (DeKalb: North Illinois University Press, 1996) Abby […]

No worse than English prisons…

My work on nineteenth-century narratives about Russian imprisonment and exile has not only led me to read the classics that established the genre, notably Dostoevsky’s House of the Dead and Chekhov’s Sakhalin Island, but has also necessitated ploughing through many less celebrated works by both travellers and former prisoners and exiles. (See my previous post […]

The Gulag fantastic?

I have just finished teaching a new cross-cultural course, Tales of the Unexpected, with my colleague Peter Zusi. A whistle-stop tour through the fantastic and supernatural from the Grimm brothers to H. P. Lovecraft, the course has been great fun, but beyond the appearance of Gogol (his Ukrainian folktale ‘Vii’) and Dostoevsky (the classic work […]

Keeping Faith with the Party

I’ve been working on my research project on narratives of imprisonment, hard labour and exile for several years now, and am at last making concrete progress with my book. While I’m completing it, I plan to use the blog to organize my notes by writing short reflection pieces on primary and secondary sources as I read […]

Discovering Ivy Litvinov

A post for Women’s History Month A few weeks ago whilst preparing for my final-year undergraduate Dostoevsky class I plucked an old translation from my shelf that I’d bought a couple of years previously at the Amnesty shop in Shoreditch boxpark. I’d barely looked at it before – I tend to collect old Dostoevsky translations […]

Four short links: digitized 20th-century collections

In the last few days I’ve come across a couple of nice collections of digitized early 20th century Russian journals and books, reminding me of what great resources there are out there, freely available to read and in some cases reuse (which does beg the question of why so many other things are locked away […]

Bedtime reading

A fit of nostalgia following the recent death of the actor Lewis Collins has seen me revisiting old episodes of The Professionals, which was probably the first grown-up TV series I watched as a kid. It’s very entertaining, not least in the way it confounds expectations. The default position may be causal sexism, for instance […]

The Crocodile: a Preface

Regular readers will know that The Crocodile is one of my favourite works by Dostoevsky, because of its connections to the Crystal Palace as well as its humour. But it was only a couple of weeks ago, while I was preparing a class on the story, that I got round to reading the fake “Editorial […]