Sawchen Lecture: Barbara Henry, “Road, River, and Book: the Russian Literary Underworld”

Tuesday January 26, 2021
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Join us on January 26 at 2:00 pm for the virtual Sawchen Lecture Series, featuring Barbara Henry of the University of Washington Seattle. This talk is part of the North American Dostoevsky Society’s Bicentennial Speaker Series.

View the recording of this talk here:

Title: “Road, River, and Book: the Russian Literary Underworld”

Abstract: The Russian literary descent or katabasis takes three distinct forms: the folkloric distant journey, the classical voyage over water, and the Romantic “found manuscript.” Unlike the vertically-organized underworld of western European literature, the lateral orientation of the Russian katabasis reflects both native geography and a psychic ideal that levels social and economic hierarchies. This talk looks at how Dostoevsky’s Notes from the House of the Dead (1862) unifies this tri-partite model. Unlike the inwardly-directed, centripetal emphases of the European descent, the transformations effected in the “dead house” are centrifugal, radiating outwards to echo the colossal changes effected by the 1861 Emancipation of the Serfs.

Bio: Barbara Henry is an Associate Professor who teaches Russian and Yiddish literature at the University of Washington, Seattle. She is the author of Rewriting Russia: Jacob Gordin’s Yiddish Drama (2011), and is completing a study of the classical katabasis in 19th-century Russian literature.