Kirill Ospovat
Assistant Professor, Slavic
Office Number:1446 Van Hise Hall

Languages: Russian, German

Research Interests: Literature and politics in imperial Russia and the early modern period; literary theory; political theory

Education: B. A. and Ph. D. in Russian literature, Russian State University for the Humanities (RGGU), 2005.

About me:

My research interests generally revolve around the interplay between literature, political theory, political theology, and intellectual history in early modern and imperial Russia in a pan-European (German, English, and French) perspective. For many years, my focus has been on court poetry and drama of the eighteenth century, resulting in a book on early Russian tragedy as a genre uniquely equipped to stage visions of sovereignty. I am currently working on another book-length study illuminating the political and theoretical underpinnings of the introduction of Western science into Russia under Peter the Great in the early eighteenth century.

My second area of interest is Russian realism, from its roots in eighteenth-century sentimentalism to the era of Great Reforms. I am interested in how ‘realist’ fiction functioned as a central medium for modernity’s social knowledge and political imagination. My second book project investigates the interplay between the sentimental gaze and political economies from Karamzin to Dostoevsky (and, in a broader perspective, from Adam Smith and Rousseau to Marx). Some of the other topics I am interested in are the political eschatology in late Gogol and Hegelian Germany; sovereignty and violence in War and Peace and the literature of the Napoleonic wars; and the relationship between modernity and the post-Romantic lyric in Russia and Germany.

Selected Publications:


Pridvornaia slovesnost': Ocherki russkoi literatury serediny XVIII veka (forthcoming in NLO Publishers, Moscow)

Terror and Pity: Aleksandr Sumarokov and the Theater of Power in Elizabethan Russia (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2016).

Edited volume:

Dramatic Experience: Poetics of Drama and the Public Sphere(s) in Early Modern Europe (Leiden: Brills 2016; coedited with Katja Gvozdeva and Tatiana Korneeva).


“Sovereignty and the Politics of Knowledge: Royal Society, Leibniz, Wolff, and Peter the Great’s Academy of Sciences”, forthcoming in the Oxford Studies in the Enlightenment.

“Doublespeak: Poetic Language, Lyrical Hero, and Soviet Subjectivity in Mandelstam’s

K nemetskoi rechi (1932)”, Slavic Review 78, no. 1 (Spring 2019), p. 126-148.

“Kazn' avtora: Delo A.P. Volynskogo, ‘absoliutizm’ i problema politicheskoi slovesnosti v 1740 godu” [Execution of the Author: The Trial of A.P. Volynskii, Absolutism, and the Problem of Political Literature in 1740], in: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie 151 (2018), p. 49-73.

“Kumir na bronzovom kone: barokko, chrezvychainoe polozhenie i estetika revoliutsii” [The Bronze Horseman: Baroque, State of Exception, and the Aesthetics of Revolution], in: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie 149 (2018).

“Realism as Technique: Mimesis, Allegory, and the Melancholic Gaze in Gogol's Old-World Landowners”, in: Yaraslava Ananka, Magdalena Marszałek (Hg.): Potemkinsche Dörfer der Idylle: Imaginationen und Imitationen des Ruralen. Bielefeld: transcript 2018, p. 219-248.

“Der Eherne Reiter: Politischer Barock und russische Revolution zwischen Puškin, Belyj und Benjamin“ [The Bronze Horseman: The Political Baroque and the Russian Revolution between Pushkin, Bely, and Benjamin], in: Le foucaldien, 2(1), 12. DOI:

"The Catharsis of Prosecution: Royal Violence, Poetic Justice, and Public Emotion in the Russian Hamlet (1748)", in Dramatic Experience: Poetics of Drama and the Public Sphere(s) in Early Modern Europe, edited by Katja Gvozdeva, Tatiana Korneeva, and Kirill Ospovat, Leiden: Brills, 2016.  189-219.

“The Theater of War and Peace: The ‘Miracle of the House of Brandenburg’ and the Poetics of European Absolutism”, in: Eutropes: The Paradox of European Empire, ed. by John W. Boyer and Berthold Molden, Paris: The University of Chicago Center in Paris, 2014. 202-238.

“Mikhail Lomonosov Writes to his Patron: Professional Ethos, Literary Rhetoric and Social Ambition”,  Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, Vol. 59 (2011), № 2. 240-266.

“Lomonosov i  Pis'mo o pol'ze stekla: poeziia i nauka pri dvore Elizavety Petrovny,” [Lomonosov and his Epistle on the Usefulness of Glass: Science and Poetry and the Court of Empress Elizabeth], Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie.  87 (2007): 148-183.


Tolstoy in translation

In this course, we read and discuss Tolstoy’s lengthier and shorter masterpieces, from War and Peace to The Strider, alongside some of his nonfictional manifestoes. We explore his techniques of representation and ethical stances and trace their evolution through Tolstoy’s long literary career. What were Tolstoy’s objections to sexuality and political reform? What is moral and beautiful? How does civilization and education relate to nature?  What does death say about life? These are some of the questions that we investigate while reading Tolstoy’s manifold work.

The Evil Empire? Reading Putin’s Russia

This course, situated between literary, political, cultural, and art studies, addresses contemporary Russia and the symbolic patterns that govern its erratic and seemingly irrational policies. We draw on political theory and investigative journalism as well as contemporary Russian film, fiction, and art in order to explore the peculiar, yet not unprecedented cult of violence that underlies Putin’s regime. We examine the origins of this cult in Russian imperial and Soviet culture and its implications for our understanding of current events.

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