This fall, from September 24 to September 30, there was a conference at Mikhailovskoe on Pushkin and Shakespeare. It was sponsored by St. Petersburg University and the group Piligrim.
The conference announcement suggested various intriguing panel titles, including: “History in Literature,” “Drama: the Problem of Genre,” “Lyricism in Drama,” “The ‘Russian Shakespeare’ and ‘English Pushkin’: Problems of Translation and Reception,” “Problems in Studying and Teaching the Classics,” “Mass Culture as a Form of Commentary on Classical Texts,” “Pushkin and Shakespeare: Theatrical Interpretations.” Because of what I saw as the larger focus of the conference on issues of canon, reception theory and teaching the classics to a broader audience, I did not give part of my research on Pushkin and Shakespeare but instead wrote up notes I had made for a course I taught last year, “Shakespeare on Film.” This turned out to have been an unnecessary consideration on my part, since the other participants spoke mainly on familiar scholarly issues of close readings, philosophy of history, etc. In a sense this was disappointing because the issues of canon, of “accessibility” and indeed relevance of the classics are such burning topics in US academic discussions these days. Yet on the other hand, the fact that Russian academics, like European academics, are still deliciously research-driven, respected, and untroubled by such identity crises, was of course refreshing and encouraging.
It is impossible here to give the entire program of the conference, but some presentations deserve special mention: Ol’ga S. Muravieva (“Pushkin’s Don Juan Complex”); Natal’ia K. Teletova (“The Category of Time in the Tragedies of Shakespeare and Pushkin”); Igor’ O. Shaitanov (“The Analysis of a Shakespearean Text from the Point of View of Veselovskii’s ‘Historical Poetics’”); Ernest B. Akimov (“Pushkin and Shakespeare: the Concept of ‘Romantic Tragedy’”); Aleksander B. Pen’kovskii (“Mysteries of Pushkin’s Text and Vocabulary in the Mirror of English Translations of Eugene Onegin”); Tat’iana E. Karateeva (“The Poet and Poetry in the English and Russian Classical Traditions (Akhmatova and Eliot)”); Edward Burns (“Tragedy and History in Pushkin and Shakespeare”); Ol’ga O. Roginskaia (“Pushkin’s Andzhelo and the Problem of Genre”).
The St. Petersburg University/Piligrim group will continue to host conferences at Mikhailovskoe, and it is to be hoped that in the future more participants from the US will join. This is a lovely set-up, where scholarly presentations and discussions are complemented by excursions around the Pushkin spots of Mikhailovskoe, the inevitable visit to Pskov, etc. The sort of “summer camp” feel to the conference allowed friendships to be formed and facilitated non-stop conversation about things Pushkinian and Shakespearean. These were the good points. On the down side, there were far fewer participants than a topic like “Pushkin and Shakespeare” should presumably draw, which caused it to be a bit insulated and Russian-focused in the scholarship itself. I am sure this would have been different had more Americans and other Westerners come. The conference organizers are aware that they should change the time to July or August, since September is a bad time for Americans to zip off to Russia for a week.
Upcoming conferences include:
- Язык Пушкина – February, 2002
- Пушкин и Андерсон – September, 2002
Reported by Megan Dixon