The College congratulations Prof Rebecca Beasley who has won the Women’s Forum Book Prize by the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies for her book Russomania: Russian Culture and the Creation of British Modernism, 1881–1922.
The judges write: ‘Rebecca Beasley’s Russomania: Russian Culture and the Creation of British Modernism, 1881–1922 is a deftly written and magisterially informed history of cultural co-creation, transition, and counter-reaction in turn-of-the-century Britain. Tracing the cultural, personal, and ideological intertwining of pre-modernist thought with Russian influences through a multiplicity of individual encounters and artistic exchanges, this book follows literary and historical developments over four turbulent decades. Drawing upon extensive research in writers’ and artists’ personal archives, as well as on fiction and journalism of the period and on an impressive range of contemporary scholarly literature, Beasley maps the evolution of Britain’s overlapping yet divergent networks for the reception and dissemination of Russian culture. Her richly detailed, remarkably entertaining discussion of both major and minor characters active in this process – from members of the Bloomsbury Group to the emerging translators and academics trained at newly founded Russian departments in Oxford, Birmingham, Bristol and elsewhere – offers new perspectives on well-known historical figures (Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence) while re-introducing obscurer, but even more significant, agents of change, such as Sir Bernard Pares (founder of the United Kingdom’s first School of Russian Studies at the University of Liverpool), or the translators John Cournos and S.S. Kotelyansky. Beasley acutely situates the emergence of British modernism not only amongst enthusiasts for Russian literature, but also in the reaction against Russian influence (voiced by T.S. Eliot and Henry James, among others), in an era when British attitudes to Russian culture veered from fervency to fear. No future history of twentieth-century British literature or of Anglo-Russian cultural relations will be complete without reference to Russomania.’
A deftly written and magisterially informed history of cultural co-creation
Rebecca comments: ‘I am honoured to be awarded the Women’s Forum Book Prize by the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies, though I confess that, in the context of the ongoing horror of Russia’s war on Ukraine, the title of my book makes me shudder. My book is about cultural events that took place more than a century ago, but culture is never detached from politics, and even this history, primarily about the creation of a new style of writing, is also a history of despotism, displaced peoples, and international conflict.’
Photo: John Pheasant