Caryl Emerson

A. Watson Armour III University Professor Emerita of Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • PhD in Comparative Literature (University of Texas at Austin, 1980);
  • MAT in Russian Language Teaching, and Russian Studies (Harvard University, 1968);
  • BA in Russian Literature (Cornell University, 1966)


Caryl Emerson is A. Watson Armour III University Professor Emeritus of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University.  Her work has focused on the Russian classics (Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevskii), Mikhail Bakhtin, and Russian music, opera and theater.  Recent projects include the Russian modernist Sigizmund Krzhizhanovskii (1887-1950), the allegorical-historical novelist Vladimir Sharov (1952-2018), and the co-editing, with George Pattison and Randall A. Poole, of The Oxford Handbook of Russian Religious Thought.


Authored Books


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The Cambridge Introduction to Russian Literature.

Russian literature arrived late on the European scene. Within several generations, its great novelists had shocked - and then conquered - the world. In this introduction to the rich and vibrant Russian tradition, Caryl Emerson weaves a narrative of recurring themes and fascinations across several centuries. Beginning with traditional Russian narratives (saints' lives, folk tales, epic and rogue narratives), the book moves through literary history chronologically and thematically, juxtaposing...

Cambridge University Press, 2008



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The Uncensored Boris Godunov: A Case for Pushkin's 1825 Original, with Annotated Text and Translation


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The Life of Musorgsky.

University of Wisconsin Press, 2006. (Chester Dunning with Caryl Emerson, Sergei Fomichev, Lidiia Lotman, and Antony Wood)

This is a brief biography of Russia's greatest musical dramatist, Modest Musorgsky (1839-1881), known the world over for his opera Boris Godunov, for his innovative realistic art songs, and for his pianistic work "Pictures at an Exhibition." Yet during his life Musorgsky had no institutional connections, no "degree," no family of his own, not even a permanent address. This book emphasizes the psychological and economic factors that contributed to the composer's remarkable autodidactic rise...

Cambridge University Press, 1999.



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Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics.

Stanford University Press, 1990. (with Gary Saul Morson



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Boris Godunov: Transposition of a Russian Theme (Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian & East European Studies)

The tale of Boris Godunov—tsar, usurper, tsarecide—dating from the early seventeenth-century Time of Troubles, inspired three major nineteenth-century Russian cultural expressions: in history by Nikolai Karamzin, in drama by Alexander Pushkin, and in opera by Modest Musorgsky. Each of these famous creations was a vehicle for generic innovation, in which a specifically Russian concept of genre was asserted in opposition to the reigning European models: German historiography,...

Indiana University Press, 1986.


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"All the Same the Words Don’t Go Away (Essays on Authors, Heroes, Aesthetics, and Stage Adaptations from the Russian Tradition)." Introduction by David Bethea.

'All the Same the Words Don't Go Away' brings together twenty-five years of essays and reviews, linked loosely by three themes. First is the creative potential inherent in transposing classic literary texts into other genres or media (operatic, dramatic) and the responsibilities, if any, that govern the transposer, audience, and critic. The practice of transposition, however, gives rise to a creative confl ict: is there a limit to the amount of ornamentation, pressure, or dilution to which...

Academic Studies Press, 2010 (in press).


Selected Edited Volumes



book cover of multiple faces
Rethinking Bakhtin: Extensions and Challenges.

Northwestern University Press, 1989.


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Mikhail Bakhtin. Speech Genres & Other Late Essays.

Vern W. McGee (Translator), University of Texas Press, 1986.



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Mikhail Bakhtin. Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics.

Ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson.

University of Minnesota Press, 1984.



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The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M. M. Bakhtin.

Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist.

University of Texas Press, 1981.



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Critical Essays on Mikhail Bakhtin.

Ed. Caryl Emerson. Prentiss-Hall, 1999.


Selected Articles

"Čapek, Janáček, That Makropulos Thing, and a Word about Sacrificed Women in 20th century Slavic Opera." 
in Between Texts, Languages,and Cultures, a Festshrift for Michael Henry Heim, eds. Craig Cravens, Masako Fidler, and Susan Kresin (Slavica, 2008): 189-98

"Princeton’s Boris Godunov, 1936/2007: After Seventy Years, Prokofiev’s Music is attached to Meyerhold’s Vision of Pushkin’s Play." 
in Three Oranges [published by the Serge Prokofiev Foundation], Special Issue 14 (November 2007), co-edited with Simon Morrison. On Princeton University’s 2007 premiere of the 1936 Meyerhold / Prokofiev production of Pushkin’s Boris Godunov.

"In Honor of Mikhail Gasparov’s Quarter-Century of Not Liking Bakhtin: Pro and Contra." 
in Poetics. Self. Place. Essays in Honor of Anna Lisa Crone, eds. Catherine O’Neil, Nicole Boudreau, & Sarah Krive (Slavica Publishers, 2007): 26-49.

"Двадцать пять лет спустя: Гаспаров о Бахтине". ["Twenty-Five Years Later: Gasparov on Bakhtin."]
in Voprosy literatury. Vol. 2 (March-April 2006): 12-47. Forum in memoriam M. L. Gasparov (1935-2005).

 "Artur Vincent Lourié's 'Blackamoor of Peter the Great': Pushkin's Exotic Ancestor as Twentieth-Century Opera." 
in Under the Sky of my Africa: Alexander Pushkin and Blackness. Eds. Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy et al. Northwestern University Press, 2006. 332-67.

"Shostakovich and the Russian Literary Tradition." 
in Shostakovich and his World Ed. Laurel E. Fay. Bard Music Festival/Princeton University Press, 2004. 183-226.

"Our Everything": Review essay of recent (or reprinted) Pushkin biographies: 
T. J. Binyon. Pushkin: A Biography (2002), И.Сурат и С. Бочаров, Пушкин: Краткий очерк жизни и творчества (2002), Ариадна Тыркова-Вильямс, Жизнь Пушкина (1929 [v. 1], 1948 [v. II], Moscow repr. edition 2002), Феликс Раскольников, Статьи о русской литературе, Часть I: Пушкин. (2002).

in Slavic and East European Journal, vol. 48: 1 (2004): 77-97

"Zosima's 'Mysterious Visitor': Again Bakhtin on Dostoevsky, and Dostoevsky on Heaven and Hell." 
in A New Word on The Brothers Karamazov. Ed. Robert Louis Jackson. Northwestern University Press, 2003. 155-79.

"Tolstoy versus Dostoevsky and Bakhtin’s Ethics of the Classroom." 
in  Approaches to Teaching Anna Karenina, edited by Liza Knapp and Amy Mandelker. (Modern Language Association Publications, 2003): 104-16

"Tolstoy's Aesthetics." 
in Cambridge Companion to Tolstoy. Ed. Donna Tussing Orwin. Cambridge University Press, 2002. 237-51.

 "Coming to Terms with Bakhtin's Carnival: Ancient, Modern, Sub Specie Aeternitatis." 
Bakhtin and the Classics. Ed. R. Bracht Branham. Northwestern University Press, 2001. 5-26.

"Bakhtin, Lotman, Vygotsky, and Lydia Ginzburg on Types of Selves: A Tribute." 
in Self and Story in Russian History. Eds. Laura Engelstein and Stephanie Sandler. Cornell University Press, 2000. 20-45.

"Bakhtin After 1990: How Having the Early Writings in English Has Reconfigured the Whole." 
in Festschrift for Vadim Liapunov Eds. Stephen H. Blackwell and Nina Perlina. Indiana Slavic Studies, 2000. 1-21.

"Afterword." The Russian Review Pays Irreverent Homage to Pushkin and Nabokov. 
The Russian Review, Vol. 58, No. 4 (Oct., 1999), pp. 591-599.

in The Cambridge Companion to the Classic Russian Novel. Eds. Malcolm V. Jones and Robin Feuer Miller. Cambridge University Press, 1998. 271-93.

"Chekhov and the Annas." 
in Life and Text: Essays in Honour of Geir Kjetsaa on the Occasion of his 60th Birthday. Eds. Erik Egeberg, Audun J. Morch, Ole Michael Selberg. Oslo: 1997. 121-132.

"Prosaics and the Problem of Form."
in Slavic and East European Journal. Vol. 41, No. 1 (Spring 1997): 16-39.

in A Plot of Her Own: The Female Protagonist in Russian Literature. Ed. Sona Stephan Hoisington. Northwestern University Press, 1995. 6-20.

"Bakhtin at 100: Looking Back at the Very Early Years," review essay of M. M. Bakhtin, Toward a Philosophy of the Act (1993), trans. and ed. Vadim Liapunov. 
in The Russian Review, vol. 54 (January 1995): 107-14.

“Tsar Boris in History.” 
in Modest Musorgsky and Boris Godunov: Myths, Realities, Reconsiderations. (with Robert William Oldani), Cambridge University Press, 1994.

"Musorsgsky’s Literary Sources, Karamzin and Pushkin." 
in Modest Musorgsky and Boris Godunov: Myths, Realities, Reconsiderations. (with Robert William Oldani), Cambridge University Press, 1994.

in Richard Taruskin, Musorgsky: Eight Essays and an Epilogue (Princeton University Press, 1992): xi-xvii.

"The Tolstoy Connection in Bakhtin."
in PMLA. Vol. 100 (January 1985): 68-80.

"Musorgsky's Libretti on Historical Themes: From the Two Borises to Khovanshchina." 
in Reading Opera. Eds. Arthur Groos and Roger Parker. Princeton University Press, 1988. 235-67.

"The Outer Word and Inner Speech: Bakhtin, Vygotsky, and the Internalization of Language."
in Critical Inquiry. Vol. 10, No. 2 (December 1983): 245-264.