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Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Henrietta Mondry

COFUND Senior Research Fellowship at Trevelyan College, Durham University (October - December 2014)

Prof Henrietta Mondry is from the department of European Languages and Cultures, University of Canterbury and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and Fellow in the Academy of Humanities of New Zealand. Prof Mondry is a scholar of international reputation and an author of several innovative and highly interesting books and numerous articles related to Russian, East European, Jewish studies, gender studies and comparative literature. 

Animal Psychology and Human Transformation in 1930s Soviet Literature and Education : The aim of the project is to contribute new perspectives on the issue of:

(1) what it means to be “human”, and

(2) what is involved in efforts to transform “humanity”.

This problem will be approached historically, situating it at the intersection of evolutionary biology, cognitive neuroscience, political culture, educational process, and literary fiction.

The project will, firstly, examine the theories, methodologies and research practices of the physiologist Ivan Pavlov and the animal trainer Vladimir Durov as two contrasting representatives of early-Soviet “zoopsychology” – a cross-section of ethology, animal neuroscience, and comparative/evolutionary psychology, which concerned itself with the combined problem of “animal minds” and “the emergence of mind” in human development.

The project will then correlate these with the works of two seminal Soviet writers for children of this same era, Arkady Gaidar and Ruvin Frayerman. The focus will be on the late 1930s, the epoch characterised by Stalin’s “human engineering” based on a strong distrust of nature. Finally, the collaboration will examine how stories written for Soviet youth both reflected and contributed to an understanding of human transformation based on a distinctively framed contiguity between animals and humans. 

The project entails a new, interdisciplinary approach to a relatively little known topic, bringing to light material that is far from widely accessible, seeking to reach original insights into a highly topical matter of concern.

 

“It is a wonderful Fellowship scheme. It is well-organised, the support from academic and administrative staff was superb. I attended most of the research seminars at IAS during my term, and felt well-integrated into the intellectual life of the Institute and the host Department.”

Professor Henrietta Mondry, University of Canterbury, New Zealand