Russomania: British Modernism and the Translation of Russian Culture

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: English Faculty

Abstract

This research provides a comprehensive account of the breadth and depth of the British fascination with Russian and Soviet culture, tracing its transformative effect on literary and intellectual life in Britain from the 1880s to the 1940s. Consideration of a 'long modernist' period makes it possible to track the place of Russian culture in, on the one hand, late Victorian debates about the future of English literature, and on the other, British responses to Soviet realism and anti-modernism-as well as to consider the impact of the political changes of those years.

Although there has been surprisingly little attention to this subject in the last fifty years, in the early phase of what we would now call modernist studies, research into British writers' engagement with Russian literature made an important contribution to the understanding of early twentieth-century literary developments: Helen Muchnic's Dostoevsky's English Reputation, 1881-1936 (1939), Gilbert Phelps's The Russian Novel in English Fiction (1956), and Donald Davie's collection, Russian Literature and Modern English Fiction (1965) all argued for the centrality of Russian literature to British modernism, especially to the modernist novel. But these accounts were limited by their commitment to an exclusively literary model of authorial influence. This study argues that the most significant impact of Russian culture is not to be found in stylistic borrowings, but in shaping the defining questions of the modernist literary experiment: the relation between language and action (abstraction vs. the concrete), the relation between writer and audience (individual vs. mass), and the relation between the literary work and lived experience (the nature of realism).

These questions cannot be understood in a narrowly literary frame, nor by using the binary and passive model of authorial influence. Instead, this project derives its methodology from studies of translation, understood as a 'cultural political practice' that inscribes social and political affiliations and effects in the translated text (Venuti,1993). This definition of translation as a nexus of power relations provides a tool with which to analyse not only the literary translations with which this study is concerned, but also the broader cultural exchange. Thus, the translation of Russian culture from its variety of source texts into the target language of British culture is conceived as a dynamic event, from which a narrative of early twentieth-century cultural politics can be read. Although the emphasis of the project is on the process of translation, dissemination and reception in Britain, comparison with Russian sources and their Russian reception is integral to the argument.

In providing a history of the dynamics of cultural exchange between Russia and Britain, this project contributes to the current increased interest in the relationship between the two countries.

Planned Impact

This project will benefit:

- Arts programmers. There has been increasing interest in the early twentieth century as we move towards the centenaries of its major events. The period has been the focus not only of documentaries and radio debates (Radio 4's 'In Our Time' broadcast debates on 'Literary Modernism' and 'Modernist Utopias' in 2001 and 2005), but also drama ('Downton Abbey'). The next few years will bring the centenaries of the Great War and of the Russian Revolutions, historical events that generate particularly strong interest, and my excavation of information about the role of British cultural figures in both should inform subsequent accounts. I have been in touch with the Arts Development team at the BBC about my research, and its potential for future documentary series.

- Librarians. By drawing attention to connections between early twentieth-century intellectual networks, my research will assist librarians in presenting their collections to a broader readership. My conference, 'Russia in Britain', was accompanied by an exhibition of the Senate House Library's recent acquisition, the M.S. Anderson Collection of Writings on Russia. It is a condition of the collection that it is exhibited regularly, and the conference provided the opportunity for the collection's first exhibition. Dr Bullock and I advised Dr Karen Attar on the selection of materials and their explanatory texts. My book is one of the first to use the Anderson Collection, and will therefore promote the library's holdings and inform its future exhibitions.

- Curators. Major British galleries have also increased their attention to twentieth-century movements: the Victoria and Albert Museum's 'Modernism: Designing a New World' (2006), the Royal Academy's 'Wild Thing: Epstein/ Gaudier-Brzeksa/ Gill' (2009-10), and Tate Britain's 'The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World' (2011) all demonstrated a fascination with modernism's utopian ambitions directly addressed by my work. There has also been a marked increase in exhibition of Russian and Soviet art: from the Royal Academy's 'From Russia: French and Russian Master Paintings, 1870-1925' to the Hayward Gallery's 'Alexander Rodchenko' retrospective (both 2008). I have frequently contributed to symposia associated with exhibitions ('The Vorticists' at the Tate, 'Blasting the Future' at the Estorick Collection), and have also acted as a peer reviewer and contributor of website material to the Camden Town Group online research project at the Tate, to be launched in May 2011. The Research Coordinator for that project began her research into the Camden Town Group in my MA course that grew out of my research on Russian culture in Britain, and her article for the project draws on the discussions of that class. I will continue to maintain these contacts, and disseminate my research in this way.

- Taught students. As the example above demonstrates, research-led teaching is a significant means of creating impact beyond the academy, especially in such a widely taught discipline as English. Students to whom I have taught my undergraduate 'Russia in Britain' course and my Masters' level 'Modernism and the Ideal Society' course have gone on to become teachers, arts administrators, and documentary makers, as well as academics, and my ongoing teaching and publishing about an interdisciplinary, international modernism therefore informs, if indirectly, British cultural programmes.

- The wider public. I have consistently sought to disseminate my work to the general public by speaking at open arts events. The Anglo-Russian Research Network will disseminate its research as widely as possible, and to this end has chosen (1) to hold its meetings outside the academy at Pushkin House, London, founded in London in 1951 as a politically neutral Russian cultural centre, and a centre of activity for those interested in Russian culture, and (2) to disseminate information about its work through on-line resources.
 
Description During the period of the award, I drafted the core chapters of my monograph, Russomania: British Modernism and the Translation of Russian Culture. The writing of this book incorporated two further objectives, to introduce translation studies methodologies to modernist studies, and to bring a range of archival material into the public domain. The first of these was also facilitated by involvement in a workshop on 'Modernism and Non-Translation' at Durham University, during the period of the award.
Exploitation Route The archival materials I have been discussing in print are relatively unknown, and will be of use to researchers working on Russian and British literary culture, the history of British politics, especially cultural politics. Discussion of translation and the use of translation studies in my published work has resulted in invitations to collaborate on future projects with others working in translation studies.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://anglorussiannetwork.wordpress.com/
 
Description The Anglo-Russian Research Network has been used as a resource in a variety of ways. As a result of it, I and my co-convenor were asked to co-organise a public workshop on Russia and Britain during the Great War at the British Library, and also advise on a centenary conference at Northumbria University on 'Britain, the First World War and the Russian Revolution'. Scholars have requested the opportunity to workshop their research in our reading groups, because they provide a rare opportunity to engage with a mixed scholarly and general audience, which has both knowledge and lived experience of the cultural relationship between Russia and Britain. For example, a seminar on children's literature about the Soviet Union in 2013 was able to connect the researcher with attendees who had grown up during the 1950s and 1960s reading the literature under discussion, and a 2016 seminar on Russian culture and the BBC in the 1940s benefited from the attendance and advice of members of the network who have worked for the BBC. The Network's web presence has also resulted in contact with the media: for example, in 2015 a researcher for Big Talk Productions interviewed me as part of their research for a film based on the experience of early twentieth-century Russia emigres; in 2016 NTV, Russia's biggest non-governmental TV company, contacted me to discuss the influence of Russian culture in Britain. It is difficult to gauge the impact of my monograph research at this point, but two quite different responses suggest the potential range of its interest: my research on Virginia Woolf's co-translations of Russian texts was published as a main article in the Times Literary Supplement in February 2013; and a 2014 conference paper on the sale of communist texts in progressive bookshops resulted in a request by an English professor teaching at US military academy to use the material in a course on terrorism and surveillance co-taught with a colleague in the Criminal Justice department. This year I was asked to put together a seminar programme based on my monograph research for the British Library's Adult Learning programme, which will be one of the seminars accompanying the British Library's 2017 exhibition, 'Russia Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths'.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description John Fell OUP Research Fund
Amount £5,058 (GBP)
Funding ID 143/031 
Organisation University of Oxford 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2015 
End 09/2016
 
Description Collaboration between the Anglo-Russian Research Network and Pushkin House 
Organisation Pushkin House
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The Anglo-Russian Research Network, of which I am co-convenor, has held termly reading groups at Pushkin House since 2011: we invite speakers to introduce themes arising from material disseminated in advance. Since 2013 the reading groups have been advertised by on the Pushkin House website to its members, as well as through our own reading list. The reading groups bring new audiences to Pushkin House, and contribute to its mission to provide a meeting place for those interested in Russia and its culture.
Collaborator Contribution Pushkin House provides the Anglo-Russian Research Network with a meeting room and AV facilities for the reading groups free of charge and publicises the reading groups (and the Network) to a general, non-academic, audience through its website.
Impact Reading groups led by: 2011-12: Stuart Eagles (Guild of St George; History), Laura Marcus (U of Oxford; Film Studies) 2012-13: Olga Soboleva and Angus Wrenn (LSE; Comparative Literature), Michael Hughes (Lancaster; History), Emily Lygo (Exeter; Russian Studies) 2013-14: Kimberley Reynolds (Leeds; Children's Literature), Philippa Burt (Goldsmith's; Theatre), Simon Dixon (UCL; Russian Studies/ Theology) 2014-15: Ben Harker (Manchester; English Literature), Louise Hardiman (Cambridge; Art History), Anna Vaninskaya (Edinburgh: English Literature) 2015-16: Barbara Emerson (Oxford; History), John Connor (Colgate, USA; English Literature) 2016-17: Elinor Taylor (Westminster; English), Claire Davison (Sorbonne Nouvelle; Comparative Literature), Pauline Fairclough (Bristol; Music) 2017-18: Tim Phillips (Indep scholar); Charlotte Alston (Northumbria; History)
Start Year 2011
 
Description Collaboration between the Anglo-Russian Research Network and the British Library 
Organisation The British Library
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution In 2014 convenors of the Anglo-Russian Research Network worked with Katya Rogatchevskaia (Lead Curator in Russian Studies at the British Library) to conceive and run a workshop to mark the UK Russian Year of Culture: 'Britain and Russia in the Great War: Centenary Reflections'. We contributed advice on appropriate speakers, advertised the workshop through our website and email list, and I gave one of the papers.
Collaborator Contribution With the convenors of the Anglo-Russian Research Network, Katya Rogatchevskaia (Lead Curator in Russian Studies at the British Library) conceived and ran a workshop to mark the UK Russian Year of Culture, The British Library provided space, refreshments, and reimbursed travel expenses for speakers, advertised the event and ran the registration process.
Impact Workshop at the British Library: 'Britain and Russia in the Great War: Centenary Reflections', 19 September 2014. Papers given by: Natalia Budanova (Courtauld; Art History) Rebecca Beasley (Oxford; English Literature) Peter Waldron (University of East Anglia; History) Nick Baron (University of Nottingham; History) Angela Smith (University of Plymouth; English Literature) Matthias Neumann (University of East Anglia; History) Katya Rogatchevskaia (British Library; Russian Studies)
Start Year 2014
 
Description Collaboration with the British Library 
Organisation The British Library
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution In 2016, Andrew Nelson (Adult Learning Manager) and Katya Rogatchevskaia Lead Curator in Russian Studies at the British Library) approached me to put together a programme of seminars to run alongside their 2017 exhibition, curated by Dr Rogatchevskaia, 'Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths'. The series of four seminars (11 May-4 June 2017), 'Russomania: The Russian Revolution and British Modernist Literature', arises directly out of my research. I will be leading two of the seminars, and Matthew Taunton (UEA, my co-convenor at the Anglo-Russian Research Network) and Michael Newton (University of Leiden) will be leading the other two. This collaboration arises out of the relationship established with Dr Rogatchevskaia through the Anglo-Russian Research Network.
Collaborator Contribution The British Library provided the opportunity for me to disseminate my research to a general audience. Katya Rogatchevskaia will lead a tour of the exhibition in the second half of the final seminar. The British Library will provide space, refreshments, advertising, and registration, and payment and travel expenses for speakers.
Impact Russomania: The Russian Revolution and British Literature: 4 seminars, 11 May-1 June 2017 1. Translating the Russians (Rebecca Beasley) 2. Russian Revolutionaries: Oscar Wilde, Joseph Conrad, and Anarchism (Michael Newton) 3. The New Russia: Utopian Travels and Anti-Communism (Matthew Taunton) 4. Representing the Revolution: from Modernism to Spy Fiction (Rebecca Beasley)
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration with the National Trust 
Organisation National Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I successfully applied for a Collaborative Doctoral Award on the topic, 'The Modernist Home'. I will co-supervise the thesis with National Trust curators from 2018-21. The impetus for the collaboration was the connection between my work on Russian culture in Britain and the role of 2 Willow Road's architect, Ernö Goldfinger, and his wife Ursula Goldfinger, in organising an exhibition of modernist art works to raise money for the Soviet Union during the Second World War.
Collaborator Contribution National Trust curators, Lucy Porten and Leign Sneade, will co-supervise the thesis. Depending on the nature of the thesis, access may also be given to Trust in-house training facilities (for example in Collection Management, Documentation and Archiving and Conservation Care). Facilitated time with both visitors, the property team and regional and national curatorial teams may also be appropriate, including attendance at related meetings and internal conferences.
Impact Collaborative Doctoral Award, 'The Modernist Home'. Multi-discplinary: literature, history, history of architecture, art history.
Start Year 2017
 
Description 'Aspects of the Novel: A Counter-History', paper given at Modernist Studies Association Annual Conference, Las Vegas 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Approximately 60 delegates attended my conference paper, which raised questions and discussion.

I met three US-based potential research partners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://msa.press.jhu.edu/conferences/msa14/
 
Description 'Before Babel: Modernism and the domestication of non-translation' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Approx 40 scholars attended workshop of 16 talks on 'Modernism and Non-Translation', which contributed to two-day discussion about shape of further work in this area

Asked to contribute to a book on 'Modernism and Non-Translation'; publicity for Anglo-Russian Research Network, which resulted in invitation to advise on conference with Northumbria University and WAR-Net; invitation to contribute to a collaborative network on modernism and translation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL https://www.dur.ac.uk/english.studies/events/?eventno=15374
 
Description 'Ford, Conrad and the Anglo-Russian Convention', paper delivered to research seminar, Keele University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact 40 academics and postgraduates attended a paper delivered to English department research seminar, which produced extensive discussion.

Discussion generated further material relevant for my research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.keele.ac.uk/risocsci/newsandevents/calendarofevents/2013/
 
Description 'Going to the people: internationalism, modernism and the interwar intellectual', conference paper delivered at the Modernist Studies Association 16th Annual Conference, Pittsburgh 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact About 35 people attended a panel I organised on internationalism and bookshops, in which I also delivered this paper

After my talk, an instructor asked to use my research materials on left-wing bookshops in a course she is teaching on surveillance and terrorism with a colleague from the Criminial Justice department of her (US) university.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://msa.press.jhu.edu/conferences/msa14/
 
Description 'Institutions of Translation', conference paper at Modernist Studies Association Conference 19th Annual Conference, Amsterdam 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact About 60 people attended a panel I co-organised on Institutions of Modernism, in which I also delivered this paper and participated in discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://msa.press.jhu.edu/conferences/msa19/
 
Description 'Russian Art and English Vorticism', paper given at Art, Craft & the Fin-de-siècle: Britain and Russia, Cambridge/ Courtauld Russian Art Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Approximately 70 delegates attended the conference, which raised questions and discussion. This was a particularly useful conference, because it is outside my discipline, and enabled me to make closer connections with art historians working on Russian culture in Britain.

Meetings at the conference resulted in me inviting the conference organiser to lead a reading group with the Anglo-Russian Research Network, which in turn brought a group of art and fashion historians to the Network for the first time.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://ccrac.hoart.cam.ac.uk/ai1ec_event/art-craft-the-fin-de-siecle-britain-and-russia/?instance_id...
 
Description 'Russian culture and the creation of British modernism', paper delivered in the Department of Humanities, Northumbria University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Approximately 20 people attended my invited paper on 'Russian culture and the creation of British modernism' to the Department of Humanities, University of Northumbria, followed by discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description 'Russian culture and the creation of British modernism', plenary paper delivered at Crossing the Borders: Anglo-Russian Contact Zones, 1880s-1940s, University of Rome Sapienza, Italy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact About 50 people attended a plenary paper I gave on the scope of my research funded by this award. The conference was organised by an Italian member of the Anglo-Russian Research Network (drawn to the Network by the website the award funded), and gathered several other members as well as other participants. A large number of undergraduates joined postgraduates and academic staff from a range of different universities (mainly English and Italian). The conference resulted in plans for collaboration on an edition of essays/ special issue of a journal.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.uniroma1.it/notizie/crossing-borders-anglo-russian-contact-zones-1880s-1940s
 
Description 'The Russian revolution in British fiction, 1919-1928: Walpole, Gerhardie, Tyrkova and Williams, and Maugham', seminar paper given to the Comparative Modernisms Seminar, Institute of English Studies, University of London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact About 20 people attended this seminar paper
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description 'The Simple Life in Print', Keynote paper delivered at 'Cultural Cross-Currents between Russia and Britain in the Long Nineteenth Century', University of Birmingham 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Keynote paper attended by approx 70 academic delegates generated questions and discussion.

Publicity for Anglo-Russian Research Network; generated invitation to a new speaker for Anglo-Russian Research Network, and conversation about potential collaboration; new connections with researchers in Russian studies
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://culturalcrosscurrentsconference.wordpress.com/
 
Description 'Translation, symbolism, and British romantic modernism', conference paper delivered at the 21st World Congress of the International Comparative Literature Association 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact About 20 people attended my paper on research that arose from the award, followed by discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://icla2016.univie.ac.at/
 
Description 'War Work: Russian Literature in Britain during the Great War', conference paper at Modernism Now! British Association for Modernist Studies International Conference, Institute of English Studies 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Approximately 60 people attended the conference paper, which generated questions and discussion.

Opportunity to show new Anglo-Russian Research Network website to researchers in the field; generated new members for Anglo-Russian Research Network (the panel was 'badged' as an ARRN panel).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.ies.sas.ac.uk/events/ies-conferences/ModernismNow
 
Description Anglo-Russian Research Network reading groups 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact With my co-convenor of the Anglo-Russian Research Network, I've organised termly reading groups since 2011 open to anyone interested in the topic of the relationship between 1880-1950. Meetings are highly interactive, and since 2013 there has been notably higher general, as well as academic, attendance. See 'Collaborations and Partnerships' for further information.

The primary focus is on exchange of research knowledge: speakers have been introduced to experts in cognate fields, and to audience members who have had personal experience of the events they are discussing, both of which enable them to develop their research. The reading groups have also brought academics from outside Russian studies into Pushkin House, the location for the reading groups, thus furthering its reach.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013,2014,2015
URL http://anglorussiannetwork.wordpress.com/reading-groups/
 
Description Co-organisation of workshop on British Library/ Anglo-Russian Research Network workshop Britain and Russia in the Great War: Centenary Reflections 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Approximately 30 people attended this workshop to hear papers on Britian and Russia's responses to the Great War, and to have a tour of the British Library's exhibition, Enduring War. Discussion was built into the programme.

Advertisement of Anglo-Russian Research Network; new audience for British Library exhibition; exchange of information; increased public awareness of British and Russian collaboration during the Great War
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.bl.uk/whats-on/events/event164328.html
 
Description Reading Russian: Russian Studies and the Literary Canon, talk given to Great Britain-Russia Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Approximately 50 members of the GB-Russia Society attended this talk which disseminated resesarch on the teaching of Russian literature in Britain, conducted during the period of my research fellowship. The talk was followed by questions and discussion.

Advertisement of Anglo-Russian Research Network, provided suggestions of future speakers for the Society (which were taken up), exchange of information about history of Russian studies (and key contacts) that will contribute to my research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2014
URL http://www.gbrussia.org/lectures.php
 
Description Roundtable on 'Russia in Britain' at Pushkin House 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Approximately 25 people attended a roundtable of talks on the publication of 'Russia in Britain, 1880-1940: From Melodrama to Modernism', ed. Rebecca Beasley and Philip Ross Bullock. Speakers were Rebecca Beasley, Philip Ross Bullock, Matthew Taunton, and papers were followed by questions and discussion.

Dissemination of academic research to general audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.pushkinhouse.org/events-archive/id-4th-november-event
 
Description The role of Russian literature in Britain during the Great War, paper delivered at British Library/ Anglo-Russian Research Network workshop, 'Britain and Russia in the Great War: Centenary Reflections' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Approximately 30 people attended the workshop, including this paper. Discussion was built into the programme.

Dissemination of information about the Anglo-Russian Research Network, new audience for British Library exhibition, exchange of information across disciplines
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.bl.uk/whats-on/events/event164328.html