My main fields of expertise are Russian Romanticism and Realism, the history of emotions, nineteenth- century intellectual and spiritual history, translation theory, and the cultural interpretation of mystifications and forgeries (“physallidology,” from “soap bubble” in Greek). 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 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 focuses on liminal and provocative aspects of literary translation and discusses works of Russian, Serbian, French, and American writers from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. My previous book reconstructs 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 most personal book, The Count of Sardinia: Dmitry Khvostov and Russian Culture investigates the phenomenon of anti-poetry in Russian literary tradition from the eighteenth through the twenty first 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 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.
My second project deals with "the history of tears" in Russian literature.
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 534 - Russian Lies: Forgeries and Mystifications in Russian Culture
- 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:
Unacknowledged Legislators: Studies in Russian Literary History and Poetics in Honor of Michael Wachtel
The 50th volume of Stanford Slavic Studies brings together prominent international specialists in the study of Russian literary history. 42 contributors are affiliated with leading academic centers in the United States, the European Union, United Kingdom, Russia, and Israel. Their essays propose new approaches and introduce hitherto unknown materials that address themes central to literary scholarship, such as theory of Russian verse, history of Russian Formalism, Russian-German and Russian-Italian cultural ties. The chapters of this book cover such towering figures of modern Russian letters as Pushkin, Gogol, Akhmatova, Mandelshtam, Nabokov, and Pasternak.
The volume is dedicated to the distinguished authority in Russian poetry and comparative literary studies, Professor of Princeton University Michael Wachtel.
Ed. By Lazar Fleishman, David M. Bethea, Ilya Vinitsky. Peter Lang GmbH, Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften, Sep 18, 2020. 996 pages
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
ON MYSTITIFICATIONS, FAKES, AND FORGERIES
“The Land of Gods: The Myth of Shambhala as a Dream of American Exceptionalism,” PMLA, January 2022, pp. 117-187.
“Strolls with Nabushkin: The Imaginary Adventures of a Slavicist in Leningrad," Nabokov Online Journal, Vol. XV. 2021. (In Russian)
“The First Serbian Female Writer: From the History of the Nineteenth-Century Women's Literature,” Slověne. International Journal of Slavic Studies, vol. 8, #1, 2019 (in Russian)
ON 19TH CENTURY RUSSIAN LITERATURE (PUSHKIN, GOGOL, TURGENEV, TOLSTOY, DOSTOEVSKY)
Zhukovsky and Gogol (From the History of a Certain Place), Unacknowledged Legislators: Studies in Russian Literary History and Poetics in Honor of Michael Wachtel, 2020. In Russian
“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)
"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
"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.
ON THE HISTORY OF EMOTIONS
"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
“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.
ON RUSSIA AND AMERICA
The Song of Freedom: “United States of Russia” in the Political Imagination of a Russian- American Adventurist, The Journal of Russian American Studies (JRAS) 4.2 (November 2020; 1st publication in NLO #155). In Russian
Pickford tape. Historical script by Viktor Shklovsky, Kinovedcheskie zapiski. 112/113. 2019/2020. Pp. 375-387.
"A Dispersed Man: Alexis Eustaphieve (1779-1857) as a National Project,"(link is external) New Literary Review (2014), #6, pp. 94-111. In Russian
Essays For Los Angeles Review of Books
“Dostoevsky Misprisioned: The House of the Dead and American Prison Literature,” Los Angeles Book Review, December 23, 2019
ESSAYS FOR ALL THE RUSSIANS (translated by Emily Wang)
ESSAYS FOR GORKY MEDIA
"AND THEN MADAME BLAVATSKY RECEIVED A POEM FROM PUSHKIN FROM THE HELL!: Professor Ilya Vinitsky Interviewed by Gorky Media"
"'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