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Durham University

School of Modern Languages and Cultures: Russian Studies

Staff in the Department of Russian

Publication details for Professor Andy Byford

2007 Literary Scholarship in Late Imperial Russia: Rituals of Academic Institutionalization, Legenda, 200 pp.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

The late nineteenth and early twentieth century was a decisive moment in the institutionalization of Russia's literary scholarship. This is the first book in the English language to provide an in-depth analysis of the emergence of Russia's literary academia in the pre-Revolutionary era. In particular, Byford examines the rhetoric of self-representation of major academic establishments devoted to literary study, the canonization of 'exemplary' literary historians and philologists (Buslaev, Grot, Veselovskii, Potebnia, Ovsianiko-Kulikovskii), and attempts by Russian literary academics of this era to define their work as a distinct form of scholarship (nauka). By analysing a range of academic rituals, from celebrations of institutional anniversaries to professors' inaugural lectures, and by dissecting the discourse of scholars' obituaries, commemorative speeches and manuals in scholarly methodology, Byford reveals how the identity of literary studies as a discipline was constructed in Russia. He offers insights not only into fin-de-siècle Russian literary scholarship, but also into wider questions of how academic fields of study become institutions.

Notes

'[...] Byford's study is an impressive achievement and a long-needed book. Beautifully written and based on extensive and well-researched material, it stands out for its sophisticated treatment of a profoundly understudied subject and contributes to the ongoing debate on the making of Russian culture.' - Olga Maiorova, Slavic Review 68.3, Fall 2009, 715-16.

'A thoroughly researched, thoughtfully conceptualized, and highly informative book that will hopefully lead to further interest in the remarkable yet in many cases still underrecognized scholarship that emerged just before and after the turn of the twentieth century.' - Barry P. Scherr, The Russian Review 67.3, July 2008, 500-01.

'Byford has written a dense and important study of the development of literature as an institution in Imperial Russia. [...] an outstanding contribution to the study of the sociology of literature in nineteenth-century Russia.' - John Ellison, Slavic and East European Journal 53.2, Summer 2009, 330-31.

'This elegantly written account of the development of Russian literary scholarship is distinctive for its focus on academics and university professors (kabinetnye uchenye) rather than the more familiar, civic-minded criticism associated with the names of Chernyshevskii or Belinskii [...] it affords a number of extremely valuable insights that are highly pertinent for the student of Russian intellectual culture more broadly.' - Frances Nethercott, Revolutionary Russia 22.1, 2009, 97-99.

'Il s’agit d’un travail érudit et brillant qui s’inscrit dans le courant des études récentes de sociologie historique, consacrées aux élites intellectuelles russes, et qui renouvelle l’approche de l’histoire des études littéraires en Russie.' - Catherine Depretto, Cahiers du monde russe 50/4, 2009, 794-96.

'Byford's monograph makes two extremely important systemic contributions. First, it is part of a process of reassessment of the Russian nineteenth century, whereby cultural historians attempt to step out of the teleological shadow cast by the gargantuan events of the early twentieth century, and indeed, to redress the methodological blindspots that grew from the Soviet era; second, Byford also joins those few (in the UK, largely Bakhtin Circle-oriented Russianists) who strive to contextualize the insights of early twentieth-century Russian literary theorists.' - Carol Adlam, Modern Language Review 105/2, 2010, 620-21.