Dr Andrew Kahn
BA Amherst, MA Harvard, MA DPhil Oxf
My research falls into these three areas:
1. The Russian Enlightenment in its comparative European context
I am the author of a number of studies, a major translation, a monograph and editor of a forthcoming book that aim to revise our understanding of the modernization and secularization of Russian culture in the 18th century through the transmission of fundamental ideas of the Western European and British Enlightenment to Russia during the reign of Catherine the Great. My skill set includes an excellent knowledge of French and English literature and thought in the period, history of science, and classical literature and its reception in this period. I also have a very good knowledge of institutional history of the Russian Enlightenment and its Academies and an excellent knowledge of rare printed sources (often pursued in rare book libraries all over the world). Without this learning I could not ask the questions that I think are important to the subject and of interest to me. On this basis I have pursued questions about the impact of science on literature, the image of the nobleman, the figure of the Enlightened despot, the key area of translation, and the capacity of literature to raise philosophical consciousness have all sought to reveal the quality and type of engagement with ideas that transformed Russian elite culture and thought. The edition of Montesquieu’s masterpiece The Persian Letters published by OUP in its trade series is actually quite a scholarly production, and gave me a chance to pursue some questions outside the Russian context and for a larger audience.
2. The work of Alexander Pushkin
Much of my research has been on the work of Russia’s most famous writer, Alexander Pushkin. I am the author of a monograph on Pushkin’s most important narrative poem the Bronze Horseman. My book on Pushkin’s lyric poetry that aims fundamentally to revise the notion that his poetic genius was effortless, naïve, all style and no intellectual content. It aims to lay bare just how his engagement with key concepts about the body and soul, the imagination, Nature—many of them part of the Enlightenment legacy in which he was so well read—informs his writing at a far more profound level than interpretations have allowed. The book made it onto the cover of the Times Literary Supplement has been well received in many scholar journals and provoked considerable argument and disagreement, which is good too. I edited the Cambridge Companion to Pushkin, which contains much new research by a distinguished group of scholars, and continue to write articles about Pushkin.
3. Russian poetry: the traditions
Outside the above areas of concentrations I have produced a steady stream of articles on major poets of the 20th century. I suppose it was on that basis that I was commissioned to write the new chapter entry on Russian poetry for the new Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, which is probably the reference Bible for scholars in all literatures who work on poetry. The common denominator of these items of research is that they explore the connection between poetry and aesthetic and political movements of the period. I am at the beginning of a new generation of projects, and continue to believe that much of what I am doing has a revisionist value because I look at new material and also at familiar material in a new light and in a much deeper context than has been customary. One example of this would be the work I am currently doing on Osip Mandelshtam, for many the greatest Russian poet of the 20th century, whose poems of the 1930s have been overlooked as too difficult and puzzling. The entire book as I write is aimed at dismantling an ossified critical method that simply doesn’t work for the subject. Potentially these arguments can radically change scholarly views on his development and genius. One reviewer of Pushkin’s Lyric Intelligence said that the book had a lot to teach people who work on poetry in general. I’d like to think that this new project, which is one among several, might offer some new thoughts on how to understand difficulty of the linguistic and representative kind that we find in modern poetry.
Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories, translated by Nicolas Pasternak Slater, edited with Introduction and Notes by Andrew Kahn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
Mikhail Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time, with Alexander Pushkin, Journey to Erzurum, translated by Nicolas Pasternak Slater, edited with an introductory essay and notes by Andrew Kahn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).
Edited Book: Representing Private Lives of the Enlightenment, ed. Andrew Kahn, SVEC 2010: 11 (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2010), a multi-author interdisciplinary collection of 14 essays on this topic from leading Enlightenment scholars (Russia and the West) in literature, history, and art history.
Pushkin’s Lyric Intelligence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, September 2008), 416 pp.
Montesquieu, The Persian Letters, translated by Margaret Mauldon, edited with Introduction and Notes by Andrew Kahn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
Cambridge Companion to Pushkin, ed. Andrew Kahn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
N.M. Karamzin, Letters of a Russian Traveller, translated with an introduction, and commentary, SVEC 2003: 4[=Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2003), 593pp. ISBN 0 7294 0811 6. This is the first complete English translation of the key masterpiece of the Russian Enlightenment with a scholarly commentary of 100,000 words.
Monograph: Karamzin’s Discourses of Enlightenment in N.M. Karamzin, in Letters of a Russian Traveller, supra, pp. 459-582 [70,000 words].
Pushkin’s The Bronze Horseman (London & Bristol: Duckworth, 1998). 168 pages.
Edition: M.N. Murav’ev, Institutiones Rhetoricae: A Treatise of a Russian Sentimentalist, ed. with extensive scholarly apparatus and introduction (Oxford: Meeuws, July 1995). First publication of a lost treatise by an important 18th c. Russian writer.
Alexander Pushkin, The Queen of Spades and Other Stories, ed. Andrew Kahn, trans. Alan Myers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, World’s Classics, 1997). ISBN 0-19-283213-1