My main fields of expertise are Russian Romanticism and Realism, the history of emotions, and nineteenth- century intellectual and spiritual history. In terms of Sir Isaiah Berlin’s playful typology of authors as either hedgehogs or foxes, I view myself as a fox. As the list of my works shows I am interested in a range of different authors, periods, and approaches to the text. I also try out different scholarly forms, from the positivistic academic commentary to the scholarly essay and parody. However, my general approach to literature is by no means eclectic. My overarching principle is a focus on a literary text or a group of texts as the intersection and interplay of various cultural and historical forces – ideology, politics, psychology, law, etc.
My most recent book is the “emotional biography” of Vasily Zhukovsky (1783-1852)—the father of Russian Romanticism, who influenced several generations of Russian authors from Pushkin to Vladimir Solov'ev and Aleksandr Blok. My newest and most personal book, The Count of Sardinia: Dmitry Khvostov and Russian Culture (Moscow: New Literary Observer, 2016) investigates the phenomenon of anti-poetry in Russian literary tradition from the 18th through the 21st century and focuses on the extraordinary literary biography and cultural function of the king of Russian bad poets, Count Dmitry Ivanovich Khvostov (1757-1835). In this book, I argue that Khvostov’s phenomenon (the worst of all Russian writers, Russia’s anti-Pushkin) reveals the uniqueness of Russian poetry-centric culture. I am a member of 2019–21 PMLA Editorial Board.
I am currently working on a comprehensive study of political and literary activities of Ivan Narodny (Jaan Siboul), a Russian-Estonian expat writer, art critic, and con-man, who lived in America from 1906 until his death in 1953 and was labeled by FBI as “the worst fraud that ever came out of Russia.” I consider Narodny’s trans-cultural personality as a parodic embodiment of a universal Russianness in the eyes of the American public of the first half of the 20th century. In 2019 I received a Guggenheim Fellowship for this project https://www.gf.org/fellows/all-fellows/ilya-vinitsky/
Prior to coming to Princeton, I taught a variety of classes at the University of Pennsylvania, including honor students’ courses on Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Russian thinkers, and criminals and justice in literature. I also taught undergraduate courses on Russia and the West, madness in Russian cultural history, as well as graduate seminars on Russian realism in European context, western mysticism and Russian culture, Russian realism, and Russian emotional history. I regard my UPenn School of Arts and Sciences Ira Abrams Award for Distinguished Teaching (2010) as the most precious prize in my academic career.
- SLA 219 - The Great Russian Novel
- SLA 415 - Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace: Writing as Fighting
- SLA 510 - History of Emotions: Russia and the West
- SLA 531 - Haunted House: Russian Literature in the Age of Realism
Selected Edited Volumes:
Madness and the Mad in Russian Culture
“Following tradition, [Catherine the Great] considered melancholy a disease of sick imagination and a Western disorder, poisoning weak Russian souls. It is not an accident that among the patients of the first St. Petersburg mad asylum … were two freemasons V. Ya. Kolokol'nikov and M. I. Nevzorov. Both young scholars had just returned from abroad (commonplace melancholy travelers in the Western tradition) and both were diagnosed as hypochondriacs. Since the time of Catherine the Great this medical (psychiatric) diagnosis has been used by the Russian authorities as a simple and effective way to discredit and/or isolate their political and ideological opponents, including some of the Decembrists, Count Dmitriev-Mamonov, Pyotr Chaadaev, and Leo Tolstoy.”
Toronto University Press 2007; co-edited with Angela Brintlinger
“How Pushkin Became a Cat,“ Parts I-II (translated by Emily Wang), All the Russias' Blog - NYU Jordan Center, Jan 29 and 30, 2020 (from Gorky Media)
“Dostoevsky Misprisioned: The House of the Dead and American Prison Literature,” Los Angeles Book Review, December 23, 2019
“Lord of the Words: Vladimir Dahl's Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great-Russian Language as a National Epic,” in: The Whole World in a Book: Dictionaries in the 19th Century. Oxford UP, 2019
“The First Serbian Female Writer: From the History of the Nineteenth-Century Women's Literature,” Slověne. International Journal of Slavic Studies, vol. 8, #1 (Moscow, 2019)
“Sergei Esenin’s ‘Last Will and Testament,’ The Origins of a Mystification,” Gorky Media, Oct. 3 and 4, 2019 (in Russian)
“Bitter Taste: How Gorky Saved Pushkin’s Honor by Closing His Café,” Parts I-III (translated by Emily Wang), All the Russias' Blog - NYU Jordan Center, Oct 21, 23, and 25, 2019 (from Gorky Media):
"AND THEN MADAME BLAVATSKY RECEIVED A POEM FROM PUSHKIN FROM THE HELL!: Professor Ilya Vinitsky Interviewed by Gorky Media"
"Madness in Western Literature and the Arts,” In The Routledge History of Madness and Mental Health, ed. by Greg Eghigian. London and New York: Routledge, 2017, 153-171
"'Breakfast at Dawn': Alexander Veselovsky and the Poetics of Psychological Biography," Historical Poetics: Past, Present, and Future, Verbal Art: Studies in Poetics Fordham UP, 2016, 314-339
"Tolstoy's Lessons: Pedagogy as Salvation," In Before They Were Titans: Early Works of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy" (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2015, 299-316
"The Thinking Oyster: Ivan Turgenev's "Drama of Dying" and the Twilight of Russian Realism." In Russian Writers at the Fin de Siècle: the Twilight of Realism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, 249-266
"A Dispersed Man: Alexis Eustaphieve (1779-1857) as a National Project," New Literary Review (2014), #6, pp. 94-111. In Russian
“The Queen of Lofty Thoughts." The Cult of Melancholy in Russian Sentimentalism,” Interpreting Emotions in Russia and Eastern Europe. Ed. by Mark Steinberg and Valeria Sobol. Northern Illinois University Press, 2011, 18-43.
"The Worm of Doubt: Prince Andrei's Death and Russian Spiritual Awakening of the 1860s," Anniversary Essays on Tolstoy, ed. by Donna Tussing Orwin. New York, London: Cambridge University Press, 2010, 119-36.
"Krupushki zaumnoi poezii [Grains of Zaum' Poetry]", Russian Literature, 2009. Jan 1-Apr 1; 65 (1-3): 261-279.
“Amor Hereos: the Occult Sources of Russian Romanticism”, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History. Vol. 9, No. 2 (Spring 2008). Pp. 291-316.