Events at the Amherst Center for Russian Culture

November 2018

Wed, Nov 7, 2018

Lisa Wakamiya on Nabokov's "The Song of Igor's Campaign"

Drawing on manuscript collations and findings in the Roman Jakobson Papers at MIT, the Vladimir Nabokov Papers at the Library of Congress and the Berg Collection at the NYPL, this paper examines the early variant manuscripts of Nabokov’s translation of The Song of Igor’s Campaign, the anonymous Old Rus epic whose antiquity remains the subject of scholarly debate. Nabokov’s decade¬-long collaboration with Roman Jakobson was intended to produce a scholarly edition of the “Song.” Instead, it resulted in an acrimonious ideologized rift: Nabokov went on to publish his translation of the “Song” with his own commentary; Jakobson’s book was never finished.

Where Jakobson sought to eliminate all doubts concerning the “Song” and its twelfth-¬century provenance, Nabokov sidestepped the authenticity debate to define the epic (whatever its origin) as a work of Great Art. Despite these fundamental differences, Nabokov’s published translation of the “Song” advances a text and a model of scholarly activity that owes much to Jakobson. If Nabokov’s earliest drafts adapt translation to philology in a performance that is at once “reverent” and “ironic,” terms that might also metatextually describe Nabokov’s relationship to his then mentor, his published edition reveals not the displacement of Jakobson’s work by his own, but a condensation of the two in which philological discourse cannot be distinguished from a performance of it.

Lisa Ryoko Wakamiya (Ph.D., Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of California, Los Angeles) is Associate Professor of Slavic in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics and Courtesy Associate Professor of English at Florida State University. She is the author of Locating Exiled Writers in Contemporary Russian Literature and co-editor with Mark Lipovetsky of Late and Post-Soviet Russian Literature: A Reader. Her current book project Collecting Objects, Materializing Ethics investigates the relationship between collections of material objects and narrative in the work of writer-collectors.

Wed, Nov 28, 2018

Resurrecting the Mammoth: Fieldnotes from Siberia - Talk by Anya Bernstein

This presentation will explore two interrelated efforts: Pleistocene Park, an experimental nature reserve in Arctic Siberia, which aspires to restore the so-called mammoth steppe ecosystem from the late Pleistocene as a way to preserve the melting permaforst and slow down climate change, and the efforts of the American and global de-extinction movement to produce a "mammoth" or rather its ecological proxy through genetic engineering with its subsequent reintroduction to Pleistocene Park. A third, independent Russian-Korean initiative to resurrect the mammoth through cloning will also be discussed. Lunch provided.
As an anthropologist and documentary filmmaker, Anya Bernstein’s main work has been on the changing geopolitical imaginaries of mobile religious communities across Eurasia. Her book, Religious Bodies Politic: Rituals of Sovereignty in Buryat Buddhism (Chicago, 2013), explores the transformation of Buddhist practice among a Siberian indigenous people known as Buryats, foremost through their post-Soviet renewal of transnational ties with their fellow co-religionists across north and south Asia. To capture these issues ethnographically, Bernstein conducted multi-sited field research in Buryat communities in Siberia as well as in Tibetan monasteries in India where some Buryat monks currently receive their religious education. The book focuses on the ways in which religion and politics have intersected under conditions of rapid social change in terms raised by recent work on sovereignty and postsocialism. As a visual anthropologist Bernstein has directed, filmed, and produced several award-winning documentary films on Buryat Buddhism and shamanism, including Join Me in Shambhala (2002) and In Pursuit of the Siberian Shaman (2006). Bernstein's current project is titled "The Post-Soviet Culture Wars: Blasphemy, Iconoclasm, and the Secular in Contemporary Russia".