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Molly Brunson

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Faculty Director of Program in Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies at Yale; Associate Professor, Slavic Languages & Literatures; History of Art
320 York St, New Haven, CT 06511-3627
Molly Brunson
Associate Professor, Slavic Languages & Literatures
320 York St, New Haven, CT 06511-3627

B.A. 2000 (Art History), Columbia University; M.A. 2004, Ph.D. 2009 (Slavic Languages and Literatures), University of California, Berkeley

I am an Associate Professor on Term in Slavic Languages and Literatures, with a secondary appointment in History of Art at Yale University.

As a scholar of modern Russian culture, I specialize in the literature and visual art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with an emphasis on the recurrent realisms that emerged in imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. Spanning a broad historical scope, my research encompasses topics as diverse as the socially conscious genre painting of the early nineteenth century and the sweeping novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky to the avant-garde’s claims to the “real” and the rise of Soviet socialist realism. I am particularly interested in aesthetics and interart studies, theories of the novel, visual cultural studies, the representation of space, and the transnational and transhistorical networks of modern culture.

In my book, Russian Realisms: Literature and Painting, 1840–1890, I articulated a theory of Russian realism based on the encounters between word and image in canonical works of literature and painting (by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, and Ilya Repin, as well as the important but lesser known painters Pavel Fedotov and Vasily Perov). Russian Realisms was awarded the Best Book in Cultural Studies by the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages in 2017, as well as the College Art Association’s Meiss/Mellon Author’s Book Award and the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies First Book Subvention Award. I am currently working on a book—The Russian Point of View: Perspective and the Birth of Modern Russian Culture—that tells the story of how linear perspective came to Russia, engaged with native aesthetic systems, and ultimately shaped the emergence of a national culture in the nineteenth century and the radical avant-garde experimentation of the twentieth.

Like my scholarship, my teaching is defined by its interdisciplinary and comparative range, for which I was awarded the Poorvu Family Prize for Interdisciplinary Teaching in Yale College in 2013. I seek to bring fresh perspectives to the Russian literary and painterly canons by integrating the traditions of Slavic studies, comparative literature, and art history.  I offer undergraduate and graduate courses on Russian realism in literature and the visual arts; the history of Russian art from the eighteenth century to the present; Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and theories of the novel; and Russian artistic culture during the fin de siècle. I have also organized a number of events and working groups, including an international conference in fall 2016, The Russian Century: The Literary, Visual, and Performing Arts, 1801–1917.

I have lectured widely on my research, including at the National Portrait Gallery in London, the University of Cambridge, the Università Ca’ Foscari in Venice, Indiana, Princeton, Stanford, NYU, and the University of California, Berkeley. During summer 2016, I was named a fellow at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

19th and 20th century Russian prose and painting; theories of realism and the avant-garde; history of Russian and Soviet art; interart studies; theories of the novel; representations of urban and rural space

Current Courses
Studies in the Novel: Dostoevsky; Russian Realist Literature and Painting; Russian and Soviet Art, 1757-Present; Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and the Novel; The Fantastic in Russian Artistic Culture; City and Country in the Novel; Masterpieces of Russian Literature I; Literature and Painting in the Age of Tolstoy

Current Projects

Russian Realisms: Interart Encounters in 19th Century Literature and Painting. Book manuscript.

Russian Points of View: The Theory and Practice of Perspective in Russia, 1820-1940. Book manuscript.

“Painting History, Realistically.” In From Realism to the Silver Age: Russian Artistic

Culture in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Rosalind P. Blakesley and Margaret Samu.Forthcoming.

“Wandering Greeks: How Repin Discovers the People.” Ab Imperio: Studies of New

Imperial History and Nationalism in the Post-Soviet Space. As part of a special issue on nomadism. Forthcoming.

“Panorama P’era: Opticheskaia illiuziia i illiuziia romana v Voine i mire” (“Pierre’s

Panorama: Optical and Novelistic Illusion in War and Peace”). In Lev Tolstoi i mirovaia literatura: Materialy V Mezhdunarodnoi nauchnoi konferentsii, edited by Galina Alekseeva, 80-90. Tula: Iasnaia Poliana Press, 2008.

“Polet nad Moskvoi: Vid s vozdukha i reprezentatsiia prostranstva v Mastere i Margarite Bulgakova” (“Flying over Moscow: Aerial Perspectives and Spatial Representation in Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita”).  Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie 76 (2005): 173-95.

FASSLL Slavic Languages and Literatures