Mark Pettus

Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures
Office Phone
230 East Pyne
  • Ph.D. and M.A. in Slavic Languages and Literatures (Princeton)

  • B.A. in German and History (Vanderbilt)



I earned my Ph.D. in Slavic at Princeton in 2009; my dissertation dealt with chronotope in Dostoevsky, including his Gothic and 19th-century literary influences (including Radcliffe, Dickens, Balzac, and Hugo), his place in the tradition of Russian religious philosophy and continental philosophy, and the legacy of his "cell" and "scaffold" chronotopes in 20th-century existential literature. While at Princeton I also studied Czech and Polish. I returned to Princeton as a lecturer in 2011, having previously worked in Russia as a translator for two years. I have spent over five years in Russia altogether, including one year on a Fulbright scholarship, and enjoy spending time there each summer as part of the Princeton-in-Petersburg program.

As an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University, I majored in History and German, and remain highly interested in German literature and philosophy. Over the past several years, driven primarily by my interest in Kierkegaard, I have been studying Scandinavian languages, including Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and, most recently, Icelandic, and have enjoyed delving into these literatures. I have also been studying Hungarian. Writers of particular interest to me include Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Kafka, Thomas Mann, Musil, Proust, Kundera, Hrabal, Ladislav Fuks, Mickiewicz, Gombrowicz, Kertész, Kiš, Hamsun, and, most recently, Karl Ove Knausgaard.

I currently teach first- and second-year Russian, using a sequence of four Russian language textbooks I have recently written. The first-year textbooks (Russian, Books 1 & 2: Russian Through Propaganda) take a rigorous approach to Russian grammar (including case usage, verbal aspect, and verbs of motion), using Soviet propaganda and advertising posters to illustrate grammatical constructions, while also introducing students to Soviet-era culture, politics, and discourse. The first-year course culminates with a unit on Soviet-era literature, with readings of both poetry (Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Mandelshtam, and others) and brief prose works (including a short story by Shalamov and excerpts from Zamyatin and Yerofeyev). The second-year textbooks (Russian, Books 3 & 4: Russian Through Poems and Paintings) turn to Imperial-era Russia, and are illustrated with paintings from the era. In this course, we examine more advanced grammar, including aspectual choice, prefixed verbs of motion, and Russian word formation in general. We also do a great deal more reading, including such classical works as Pushkin's The Bronze Horseman and Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.

I offer two-year sequences in both Czech and Polish, featuring intensive grammar with a special emphasis on reading proficiency. Authors include (in the Czech sequence) Kundera, Hrabal, Hašek, Čapek, and Fuks; and (in the Polish sequence) Szymborska, Miłosz, Szpilman, Schulz, Lem, Borowski, and Gombrowicz. In the fourth semester of Polish (PLS 107), we read Mickiewicz's Pan Tadeusz in its entirety; this course is open to all Polish speakers who are interested in this essential work.

Current Project: 

I am currently at work editing the first four volumes of my Russian language textbook series. In the future I hope to write a two-volume Czech textbook and to expand the Russian series with two additional volumes for advanced learners.


Articles and translations:

"Staging 'Hamlet': The Ethical and Aesthetic Dimensions of Space in Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago. In The Slavic and Eastern European Journal, Winter 2013 (Vol. 57, No.4).

Keeping Bees in Horizontal Hives: A Complete Guide to Apiculture, by George de Layens. Ithaca, New York: Deep Snow Press, 2017. Translated from the French.

Keeping Bees with a Smile: A Vision and Practice of Natural Apiculture, by Fedor Lazutin. Ithaca, New York: Deep Snow Press, 2013. Translated from the Russian.


Courses Taught: 

  • RUS 101-107: Beginning and Intermediate Russian
  • CZE 101-107: Beginning and Intermediate Czech
  • PLS 101-107: Beginning and Intermediate Polish
  • SLA 416: Dostoevsky Seminar
  • SLA 409: The History of Russian Rock
  • SLA 411: Survey of Russian Poetry
  • SLA 220: The Great Russian Novel and Beyond
  • SLA 90: Kierkegaard (a reading course)