The Jordan Center’s Colloquium Series serves to introduce the most recent work of scholars within the Slavic field. Participants come from universities across the country and abroad, and work in disciplines ranging from history, political science and anthropology to literature and film. The colloquium discussion is based on a working paper which will be circulated prior to the event. On Friday, October 26th, please join us for the second installment of our Fall 2018 Colloquium Series with Emily Van Buskirk from Rutgers University who will speak on “To Analyze or Not: The Documentary Prose of Varlam Shalamov and Lydia Ginzburg”.
Varlam Shalamov and Lydia Ginzburg are both writers of innovative documentary prose that seeks to capture the experiences of the Soviet subject. They came of age in the 1920s and carried that era’s sense of the crisis of the novel into the decades that followed, rejecting the novel’s fictional mode, traditional structure, and cult of literary heroes. While this paper reveals the common ground in the way the two writers frame the most important themes of their time and strive to uncover the behavioral “regularities” (zakonomernosti) of the typical person living through war and totalitarian terror, it focuses on the strikingly different tools they employ to understand and represent their quasi-fictional characters. The paper forms part of a larger project on documentary prose written in response to catastrophic experiences of war, terror, and the camps. It will contain a coda on Svetlana Alexievich, a writer of a different generation who adopts a different approach to documentary prose, building on and modifying the tradition of her predecessors.
Emily Van Buskirk is Associate Professor of Slavic Literature and Director of the Russian and East European Program at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. She is author of Lydia Ginzburg’s Prose: Reality in Search of Literature (Princeton University Press, 2016), which co-won the MLA Scaglione Prize and was awarded the AATSEEL Prize for Best Book in Literary Studies. She has co-edited, with Andrei Zorin, two additional volumes on Ginzburg (Lydia Ginzburg’s Alternative Literary Identities and a Russian edition of Ginzburg’s blockade prose), and has edited and revised the English translation of Notes from the Blockade (for Random House). Her current project is a study of documentary prose that seeks to respond to the catastrophic experiences of the Soviet twentieth century.