Prof. Galina Rylkova was awarded a Rothman Faculty Summer Fellowship to support research for her second book project, “Creative Lives: The Art of Being a Successful Russian Writer.” This project explores how a representative selection of Russian writers from the last 150 years understood concepts of success, fame, and accomplishment. Prof. Rylkova also considers how these concepts shaped these writers’ lives, their creative output, relationships with their readers, and their cultural legacies today. She used the funds to finance travel to archives and significant locations in the United Kingdom, Italy, and the United States.
In the UK, Prof. Rylkova met with scholars from related fields and presented a portion of her research at Cambridge University’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities. The Centre published a summary of her presentation as “Petr Stolypin As ‘A Hero of His Time’” in East European Memory Studies No. 11 (October 2012, pp. 19-20), and the revised paper is presently under consideration for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
In Italy, Prof. Rylkova travelled to sites that recur in Russian writers’ travelogues. Particularly, she visited Florence, Ravenna, Venice, and Milan, which attracted Russian writers and other tourists due to their prominence in Dante’s works. This allowed Prof. Rylkova to compare the travelogues to the actual sites, contributing to an increased understanding of how images of Italy and images of Dante figured in the imagination of Russian writers. This research both contributed toward her book project and laid the groundwork for a course she co-taught with Prof. Mary Watt in Spring 2013 on the reading of Dante in Mussolini’s Italy and in Stalin’s Russia.
Prof. Rylkova concluded her travels in New York City, where she was able to work with a rare copy of Despair, a novel written by the Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov. Originally published in 1934 as a serial in a Russian-language periodical, Nabokov adapted the novel for English publication in 1937 as he sought to emigrate from Nazi Germany to the US with his Jewish-Russian wife. Most English copies were destroyed during WWII, such that the copy held by the New York City Public Library is the sole surviving publicly-accessible copy. Access to the text allowed Prof. Rylkova the invaluable opportunity to contrast the first English edition with the early Russian editions and the revised second edition that Nabokov published in 1962. Prof. Rylkova’s studies of Nabokov’s revisions and Russians’ changing reflections on their Italian travels contribute to a better understanding of how Russian writers shaped and guided some of the dramatic Russian political and cultural changes over the last 150 years.
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