Over the summer of 2011, with the support of the Rothman Faculty Summer Fellowship, Prof. Ingrid Kleespies revised and completed her book, A Nation Astray: Nomadism and National Identity in Russian Literature. This book, which will be published with Northern Illinois University Press in Fall 2012, explores the idea of wandering, travel, and mobility in Russian literature and thought, especially in the works of such great Russian authors as Nikolai Karamzin, Alexander Pushkin, Petr Chaadaev, Ivan Goncharov, Alexander Herzen, and Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Prof. Kleespies’s book focuses on the idea in Russian literature that Russia lacks a national history and definition. As the nineteenth-century Russian philosopher Petr Chaadaev wrote, “We seem to camp in our houses, we behave like strangers in our families; and in our cities we appear to be nomads…” Chaadaev was the first to explicitly articulate Russian identity in nomadic terms (a statement for which he was confined to house arrest and declared insane), but the theme rapidly spread throughout Russian literature and philosophical circles. Prof. Kleespies traces this image of the Russian as a nomad among Russian literary figures of the nineteenth century. She proposes that the metaphor of nomadism was a central component of Russian identity in the time period and studies how literature of the nineteenth century explored the concept of nomadism by struggling with the issues of Russia’s vast size and space, unique history, and alienation from the West.
The Rothman Summer Fellowship allowed Prof. Kleespies to spend the summer of 2011 working on her manuscript, soliciting revisions from readers, and making changes to the work based on their feedback. She reorganized her early versions of the book, rearranging and expanding several of the chapters. She also used the time to clarify her argument and sharpen her analysis. Her book, which will be published in Fall 2012, will make an important contribution to the fields of Russian literature and history. Prof. Kleespies has been invited to spend the 2012-3 academic year as a senior fellow at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University.
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