Andrew Kahn is Professor of Russian Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow and Tutor, St Edmund Hall, Oxford. He is, most recently, co-author of A History of Russian Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) and translator and co-editor with Kelsey Rubin-Detlev of Catherine the Great, Selected Letters (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018). His book Pushkin’s Lyric Intelligence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) was awarded honorable mention by the MLA. He has held a Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship.
The Russian Enlightenment in its comparative European context; the work of Alexander Pushkin; Russian poetry; travel literature (of the eighteenth century); the short story as a genre; literary history; theory and history of translation
Light in Russia: Studies in Enlightenment Thought
The project is a book setting out the case for the existence of a Russian Enlightenment as a national movement. Over the course of the eighteenth century, Russia became a great European power, underwent modernization, saw a decisive shift from ecclesiastical domination to secular discourse, adopted neoclassical aesthetic rules and for the first time engaged thoroughly with classical antiquity, and appropriated modern genres of painting. Sixteenth and seventeenth-century Europeans saw Russia as a shadowy hyperborean region, impossible to map or imagine, while in the eighteenth century, as Larry Wolff has shown, placing Russia and Eastern Europe on the map became an integral part of the process of European self-definition. Yet with considerable conviction and in substantial numbers, educated Russians saw themselves as Western in a country on the European side of the boundary. Did they identify as Enlightened? This essay will advocate a new approach to the adoption in eighteenth-century Russia of ideas broadly associated with the Enlightenment.
I shall take a “scenes from the Russian Enlightenment” approach somewhat akin to T.J. Reed’s method in Light in Germany (University of Chicago, 2015). This essay will explain why Westernization in the long eighteenth century in Russia has a specific Enlightenment intellectual, social and literary content of considerable depth and importance, sustained as its own project and discourse from the 1730s to the end of the long eighteenth century around 1810. The book will be interdisciplinary (employing literature, history, cultural studies, history of ideas, visual arts), and will be arranged by theme.