1. Why did you choose Russian culture for your profession?
To be honest, it felt like a random development in my life. Random does not mean it was bad or meaningless, though. I began reading Russian literature in translation at the age of 14. As a teenager I was drawn to things I didn't understand and so Russia offered a variety of challenges: the culture itself was alien to me and its philosophical content opened up the world to me. If my professors at Wesleyan had not been as amazing and supportive as they were, I might have ended up studying music, which was my plan B when I entered college. Only after graduate school did I realize that as a mixed-race person, Russian culture must have appealed to me because of its historical identity between east and west. But I like that what I do still remains a bit of a mystery to me.
2. What was your brightest recollection from your graduate student’s years?
In the Slavic department I have fond memories of Michael's Pushkin seminar, which I took my first year. It was the course where I learned to scan poetry and the myth of Pushkin as a simple, clear poet was totally destroyed for me. I ended up writing an essay on his sonnet "Madonna" that I later published. Returning to Pushkin - to his prose this time - is something I would like to do at some later point.
3. What literary work (or any work of art) would you like to recommend to a newcomer who is interested in Russia as the key to the culture?
This is a hard question. I would choose either Tarkovsky's Mirror or something by Chekhov. Those are my keys to the culture, at least.
4. What are you currently working on?I am finishing a book manuscript currently entitled, Reading Faithfully: Russian Modernist Criticism and the Making of Dostoevsky, 1881-1917. I'm also working with some colleagues on a volume of previously untranslated Symbolist criticism on realism.