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The Seminar on Slavic History and Culture was founded in 1968 on the initiative of the renowned scholar of Russian literature and specialist on Dostoevsky, Robert Belknap. It was initially conceived as a broad exploration of history, literature, and arts of the Slavic peoples, to include topics from economic development to religious and philosophic thought. Today, after many years bringing together the Slavic studies community in the New York City area, our Seminar continues to bridge the disciplines of literature, language, and history, with a focus on original research across the range of Russian and East European history, as well as a lively exploration of the contemporary literary and artistic scene. We are pleased to welcome a dynamic group of graduate students who bring their energy and enthusiasm to our meetings.

Professor Catherine Evtuhov

Professor Mark Lipovetsky

Tomi Haxhi

All seminars will meet over Zoom for the 2020 fall semester. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change. 

Meeting Schedule

09/18/2020 Online Meeting
3:00 PM
Tolstoy and the Romantic Myth
Andrei Zorin, University of Oxford (England, UK)


Tolstoy as a writer, thinker and a person was shaped by the basic Romantic mythology launched by Rousseau and Schiller in the second half of the eighteenth century, further developed by nineteenth century authors and in different shapes prevalent in European culture for more than a century. As demonstrated in the seminal dilogy of M.H. Abrams The Mirror and The Lamp (1953) and Natural Supernaturalism (1971), this mythology was based on a synthesis of the classical myth of the Golden age, and the biblical stories of the expulsion from Eden and the prodigal son. The romantic hero saw himself as irrevocably cut by his own transgression from primordial bliss by his own transgressions the reflection of which was preserved in his childhood memories, and longed to recreate the lost fullness of being through love, artistic creativity, return to nature or immersion in a national heroic past.

Tolstoy was born into this mythology. He imbibed it from his orphaned childhood, the atmosphere of Yasnaya Polyana, family estate, where he grew up, the works of his favorite writers and behavioral and emotional models provided by his seniors. This utopian vision was dominant in his early works. Later he was constantly expressing, verifying and challenging the Romantic myth in his lifestyle, prose, religious teaching and social theories trying to adjust it to the new social, intellectual and technological environment. Tolstoy’s final escape and death can be regarded as the inevitable conclusion of this quest no less consistent, powerful and artistically expressive than the best pages he wrote.

11/20/2020 Online Meeting
6:00 PM


02/05/2021 Location TBD
6:00 PM


04/02/2021 Location TBD
6:00 PM