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History of Innovation in the Humanities

The Case of Russia

This series of seminars, convened by Professor Andy Byford, explored key factors of innovative transformation in the humanities, especially areas of relevance to Modern Languages. The specific case that the series focused on was the rise of literary studies in early twentieth-century Russia/USSR, to include Formalism, Bakhtin and Marxism.

Of particular interest has been the multilingual, translingual, transnational and comparative character of the humanities as an intellectual domain and area of knowledge production. This entailed, for example, explorations of the meanings of 'world literature' and 'translation', as well as the problematisation of universalism in the humanities. Crucial to the discussions has also been the politics of disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity, including ways in which these intersect with politics more broadly.

The seminars approached these questions from a variety of methodological angles, ranging from the sociology of knowledge to the history of ideas, from discourse analysis to the philosophy of science. Presenters included scholars from Russia, Germany and the UK, including two based at Durham.

For further detail on the above series contact: 


8 May 2019

Dr Elena Ostrovskaya (Higher School of Economics, Moscow), The Mystery of The Red Earth: Harold Heslop, Soviet Literary Institutions, and World Literature (Elvet Riverside I, A29, 5pm).

28 June 2018

Dr Sergey Tyulenev, presents paper 'The Birth Pangs of a Future: Translating the World Literature into Vsemirnaia Literatura' at the World Literature in the Soviet Union workshop, Queen Mary University of London, 28-29 June. See all workshop abstracts.

25 January 2018

Professor Galin Tihanov (Queen Mary, University of London), World Literature, War, Revolution: Viktor Shklovsky’s Sentimental Journey (4.30pm, MLAC, Durham University, ER, A29).

28 November 2017

Dr Dušan Radunović, Bakhtin and the Institutionalisation of Knowledge in the Russian Humanities (4pm, MLAC, Durham University, ER1, A29).

18 October 2017

Professor Andrei Zorin (Oxford), The Invention of Russian 18th-Century Studies: Humanities and the Internalization of Ideology under Stalin (4.30pm, MLAC, Durham University, ER1, A29).

1 June 2017

Dr Ilya Kalinin (St Petersburg State University), How Lenin's Language was Made: The Meeting of the Poetic and the Political in Russian Formalism (1pm, MLAC, Durham University, ER1, A29).

7 March 2017

Dr Julian Hamann (Bonn), The Formation of the German Humanities as a Thing of Boundaries (4pm, MLAC, Durham University, ER153).