CFP: The ‘Byt’ of Literature, Princeton University Graduate Conference

Deadline: February 1, 2022

May 13-14, 2022

Literary Personalities, Scholarly Discourses and the Modes of Their Production

Co-organizers: Lidia Tripiccione and Benjamin Musachio, Princeton University

 Keynote Speaker: Kevin M.F. Platt, Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in the Humanities, University of Pennsylvania

In his most famous article, Boris Eikhenbaum showed how Gogol’s Overcoat was made: a literary text was presented as a product of meticulous fabrication. In his later work, Eikhenbaum similarly explored the constructed nature of the environment (byt) in which literature is produced. Focusing on social and artistic milieus, Eikhenbaum asked: How are poets and literary figures “made?” In responding to this question, we seek to refine, recast, and expand the Formalist mode of inquiry.

Broadly speaking, we ask: What are the aesthetic, narrative, social and political techniques and technologies that generate literary personalities and discourses on literature in imperial and Soviet Russia and in Eastern Europe? How does the byt of literature emerge, settle, and perpetuate itself? What are the networks of everyday life that shaped literary and academic life in Russia and the Soviet Union as well as the study of this region’s literary culture?

We invite papers from graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who are interested in exploring the creation of discourse, personality, and celebrity in transit: e.g., the cultivated and mediated persona of the writer among foreign readerships; the emigration of theorists and their ideas from “home” to “abroad;” the dynamics and mechanics of translation (interlingual, intralingual, etc.), and the production of scholarly discourses within institutions or informal kruzhki. Possible topics might include the following:

How Writers and Discourses Were Made Before 1917

●      The court, the salon, the public square: changing social/professional contexts for Russian writers.

●      Editors and literary impresarios (e.g., Bulgarin, Katkov, Suvorin, David Burliuk), and the world of literary publishing before 1917.

●      Origins of Russian literary criticism; the emergence of the literary critic as a public figure.

●      Waves before the First Wave. Russian and Russophone literature abroad in the 18th and 19th centuries: networks of writers and readers.

Methodologies: New and Revised

●      Historically informed or innovative ways to conceptualize literary and scholarly byt.

●      Surfacing censors, publishers, bibliographers – their professional and social roles in literary life.

●      The interaction between scholars’individual biographies and Slavic literary studies’ institutional history.

●      The integration of televisual and audio source bases into intellectual-historical and literary-historical inquiries.

●      Re-reading of marginalized texts by Formalists and young-Formalists on literary byt (e.g., Shklovsky’s Matvei Komarov, Kaverin’s Baron Brambeus)

 The Russian or Soviet Writer: Personality and Celebrity

●         The writer’s self-presentation in life (styles of dress, declamation) and in media.

●      Webs of interpersonal contacts, personal and professional friendships as formative of literary personality.

●    (Contested) contributions from the state, cultural authorities, and media elites in the creation of a writer’s public image.

●      The Russian/Soviet writer abroad: strategies of personality translation.

●      Writers no one reads: radical disjunctions between writers’ output and public fame.

Academic byt in the Soviet Union and Beyond

●      The organization and mechanisms of scholarly byt in the humanities in the Soviet Union and in the Eastern Bloc countries.

●      The system of academic publishing in the Soviet Union and in the Eastern Bloc countries for the humanities.

●      The appearance of innovative literary theories and knowledge within informal, hardly institutionalized contexts (e.g., the Kääriku Summer Schools).

●      The émigréeveryday: Slavic literary scholars in Western countries and the expansion of Slavic literary studies in the West. Interpersonal networks and financial support.


This conference will be in person. It intends to provide graduate students with the opportunity to present their work to senior scholars in the field and to receive as much constructive feedback as possible.  Each presenter will be given 15-20 minutes to present a paper, followed by commentary from the panel discussant and then open discussion.

The conference is hosted by the Princeton Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. The working language of the conference is English, but we will accept contributions in Russian as well.

Professor Kevin M.F. Platt (University of Pennsylvania) will deliver the keynote address.

Submission Details

We welcome submissions from graduate students and postdoctoral scholars across disciplines working on 19th, 20th, and 21st-century Russian/Soviet literary and literary-academic culture.

Please submit abstracts (300 words or less) and a short bio (no more than a few sentences) to

The deadline for submissions is February 1, 2022Please submit all files as Word documents.

Depending on the funding, we might be able to provide travel subsidies for the conference participants, as well as lodging.

Any questions should be addressed to