Graduate Alumni

William Hamilton (BA 1963, Phd 1971)

If I remember Robert Frost’s lines correctly, “Two roads converged in a yellow wood…”  I took the one less traveled by, and it did make a huge difference.  After a smooth passage through the undergraduate Russian major (1959-1963) I stayed for grad school, and wound up with a Slavic linguistics PhD (the less traveled road) thanks only to the infinite patience of Alex Schenker, who advised me across eleven contiguous years, and the gruff and helpful wisdom of Bill Cornyn, to whom I had to turn in the year when I flunked out. Mr. Cornyn and I met as I was saying good-bye, partway through grad school.  He asked “What are you going to do now, Hamilton?”  I said “I’m going off to play the banjo!”  He asked “Four string or five?”  I answered “Five. I do Bluegrass.” He said, much to my surprise, “Well, I was four string.  I dropped out of school in the 1920’s to play Dixieland. Then I got back into school.”  As I turned to go, he said, “Oh, Hamilton, you’ll be back!” I said “You mean I can come back later?”  Had I not had that conversation, I believe I’d be selling insurance today.  I’m a full professor of Russian at Wake Forest in North Carolina.  Let’s hope that our department still has the human warmth of my early advisers and benefactors, which indeed made all the difference.

George M. Young (PhD 1973)

In the spring of 1966, after three years of course work in the Slavic Department, I left before finishing my degree to take a job chairing a fledgling Russian department, and teaching Russian language, literature, and general humanities at Grinnell College.  While there, I started work on a dissertation and eventually received my Ph.D. in 1973.  In the meantime, I had left Grinnell in 1969 to begin a ten-year stint teaching Russian and Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College.  While at Dartmouth, I turned my dissertation into a fuller study of the eccentric nineteenth century thinker, Nikolai Fedorov, published in 1979 as Nikolai Fedorov: An Introduction, which over the years, for lack of stiff competition,  has remained a standard “life and works” on Fedorov in English. When my contract at Dartmouth expired (i.e. didn’t earn tenure), the academic job market was bleak, particularly for specialists in obscure nineteenth century Russian religious thinkers who believed that the common task of humanity was to resurrect all the dead.  To support myself and family, I quit looking for another academic position, and opened a small fine arts business, buying and selling nineteenth and early twentieth century American and European paintings, watercolors, drawings, and prints.  After a couple of years, the business grew into a regional auction house – I may be one of  the few to hold both a Slavic from Yale and a diploma from the Kansas City School of Auctioneering.  Training in pronunciation of difficult Slavic phonemes proved invaluable preparation for mastering the tobacco and hog calling chants required for an auctioneering diploma and license.  During three decades as an art dealer and auctioneer, I continued to work as an “independent” (i.e. unemployed) scholar, contributing articles, general essays, reviews, and oral presentations to various publications and conferences, Slavic and other, in the U.S. and abroad.   After our children’s graduation from college, I was able to retire from the art business and return to academic work, part time, as an adjunct in humanities at the University of New England.  Now finally retired from active teaching, I study and write as a research fellow at UNE’s Center for Global Humanities.  After nearly half a century, I am still writing and speaking about the topic of my dissertation, Fedorov, his ideas and followers, (most recent book:  The Russian Cosmists:  The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and his Followers, Oxford University Press, 2012). I also hike a lot, play golf, read and write about poetry, art, and the western esoteric tradition. 

Alexis Klimoff (PhD 1974)

Dissertation on the late poetry of Viacheslav Ivanov. Taught language and literature in the Vassar College Russian Department, 1971-2012. Retired in 2012 as Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies. Also taught graduate courses on Russian literature in the 1980s and 90s in the Middlebury Summer School (a total of ten summers). In the 1989-90 academic year was Moscow-based Resident Director of the American Collegiate Consortium – responsible for 73 students from 11 U.S. colleges and universities spread all over what was still the USSR, from Irkutsk and Tashkent to Tallinn and Odessa. Spent most of that year on the road, often cajoling local officials or stamping out fires. In terms of scholarship, apart from Viacheslav Ivanov, I have focused largely on Solzhenitsyn and a number of other 19th and 20th century writers, as well as on the issue of literary translation of Russian into English. A number of my translations of Solzhenitsyn have been published. Furthermore, a great deal of time was dedicated to archival research in areas other than literature proper. This has included working with the papers of the theologian Georges Florovsky housed at Princeton and at St. Vladimir’s Theological Academy, and those of the émigré philosopher and brilliant essayist Ivan Il’in temporarily stored at Michigan State University. In both cases this work resulted in important discoveries that found their way into print. I was also directly involved in repatriating Il’in’s massive archive from MSU to Moscow University in 2006. Since 2000 I have been a fairly regular participant in various scholarly conferences in Russia, with subsequent publication in Russian collections of essays. And since 2009 I have been the editor of Transactions of the Assn. of Russian-American Scholars in the U.S.A., a bilingual almanac that appears more or less yearly and publishes scholarly studies on literary and historical topics. The last issue (vol. 37, appeared in March 2013) carries important archival discoveries bearing on the Eurasian movement.

Gary Saul Morson (BA 1969, PhD 1974)

taught for 13 years at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is now Frances Hooper Professor of the Arts and Humanities.  Practicing “philosophy without a license,” he writes books on philosophy using literature as a springboard and on Russian writers seen through the perspective of the great questions. For reasons he can’t understand, he has become Northwestern’s most popular teacher with an annual class of 500 students; he also founded and edited Northwestern University press’s series of books on Russian literature; and disavows all responsibility for the writings of his friend and pseudonym Alicia Chudo. As a Yale undergraduate and graduate student, he learned from the very different approaches of Victor Erlich, Michael Holquist, and Robert Louis Jackson.

Nicholas G. Zekulin (Ph.D 1974)

Looming retirement after 43 years at the University of Calgary, coupled with the request to provide musings on life after graduate studies in Slavic Languages & Literatures at Yale has, inevitably, inspired reflection.  If I had to define my career in the minimum number of words, I would choose two: serendipity and context.

I came to Yale in 1966, knowing that Ivan Turgenev was “my man” — and I have remained true to him to this day (and beyond).  I wrote my dissertation on Turgenev and he has been at the center of my research interests ever since.  So, where does serendipity fit in?  Chance encounters at conferences (it is this value of conferences that is all too often underestimated) have led to collaborations; in one instance, it was actually coming across the name of the one and the same colleague in successive archival folders that led to personal contact and a soon-to-be-published joint project.  The fortuitous finding of a reference in a library catalogue one dark wintery Friday afternoon (while avoiding more “serious” work) led to the discovery of an unknown original text (Turgenev’s libretto for «Le Dernier Sorcier», one of the operettas he wrote together with Pauline Viardot) that led to other related manuscripts in 3 different countries that eventually led to a performing edition that was produced not only here in Calgary, but also in the US and France.  This in turn inspired articles exploring the intellectual exchanges between Turgenev and Louis and Pauline Viardot more generally.  The arbitrary choice of a session devoted to digitization of Early Slavic manuscripts at an international conference eventually led to my current project that is intended to see me kept out of mischief for at least 10 years in retirement: an on-line edition of the more than 120 translations in which Turgenev was personally involved (ranging from student translations from Greek and Latin to complete works by his great predecessors in Russian literature, as well as his own works). Most of these are unknown even to Turgenev specialists!  I would estimate that far and away the vast majority of my published works stemmed either directly or as part of a chain reaction from something serendipitous.

One of the things that teaching at a university without a graduate program in Russian made me realize that while there is a link between teaching and research, there is equally a “disconnect.”  It did not take long to realize that those to whom one was “teaching” Russian literature were not, with the rarest exception, nascent “Slavists” or “Russianists” (which, given job prospects, was a wise choice).  For them, therefore, Russian literature has to have a direct and immediate relevance; it has to address issues that are no less important to them than they had been to the contemporaries of those works.  Fortunately, Russian literature has no shortage of works that address fundamental issues of human existence and interaction, ones that can spark the most dynamic — and occasionally heated — of discussions.  So where does “context” come in?  For me it was vital to try and understand the personal and intellectual elements that contributed to the mindset that produced the works that my students and I were reading.  Consequently, the majority of my own research and publications — however serendipitous their origins — stemmed from the effort to try and understand those elements in ever-widening and deepening circles.  What were the historical, intellectual, social and educational influences on the authors we read?  This required broader reading, often outside Russian literature.  For the early 20th century, it required attention to other art forms beyond literature. Nor was the process in language classes significantly different.  A course on contemporary Russian in the 1990s led to the exploration of a rich body of work by women authors, concerned with daily reality.  Today, Beginners’ Russian involves the exploration of on-line shops in Russia with students’ buying new wardrobes and/or equipping themselves for spending 6 months in Russia in an unfurnished apartment within a limited budget.  Etc., etc., etc.

Last but not least I would like to reflect on what has been probably the greatest change that I have witnessed over my professional life.  As a non-American without access to IREX, I was among the last generation for whom study in Russia/the Soviet Union was not a possibility as a student.  Formal exchanges during the early years of my career made research trips possible, but extremely circumscribed.  With the collapse of the Soviet Union, not only contacts, but even cooperation and collaboration with Russian colleagues became increasingly possible.  My interest in Turgenev’s close friend and literary adviser Pavel Annenkov serves as a telling example.  For my first research trip to Moscow in 1978, I was initially denied access to the then TsGALI, which had the largest collection of his materials; even when that decision was (astonishingly) reversed (my “minder” would stand up when I entered the room after that reversal —“just in case” — because it was unprecedented in his experience!), the archivists decided what material I was issued (I did not see the “catalogue” until the early 2000s).  Some years later, I was denied an exchange visit to Pushkinskii dom, because someone within PD was working on the Annenkov–Turgenev correspondence that I was interested in.  By the mid-1990s that individual (the late Nataliia Mostovskaia) and I were working on a joint edition of those letters, eventually published in 2005 in the Literaturnye pamiatniki series.  And five years after that I was appointed by the Academy of Sciences to the Editorial Board of their Turgenev edition!   Indeed, much of my recent work has been published in Russia, and many of my major projects have been undertaken in collaboration with Russian colleagues.  Not even in my wildest dreams as a graduate student at Yale could I have envisaged such changes!

Nancy Condee (PhD 1980)

As Professor of Slavic and Film Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, Nancy Condee works in the fields of contemporary Russian cinema, empire theory, and cultural politics.  Recent publications include The Cinema of Alexander Sokurov, ed. with Birgit Beumers (I.B. Tauris, 2011); and Imperial Trace: Recent Russian Cinema (Oxford 2009), which won the 2011 MLA Scaglione Prize for Studies in Slavic Languages and Literatures and the 2010 Katherine Singer Kovács Book Award from SCMS (Society for Cinema and Media Studies).  Other volumes include Antinomies of Art and Culture: Modernity, Postmodernity, Contemporaneity, ed. with Terry Smith and Okwui Enwezor (Duke 2008) and Soviet Hieroglyphics (British Film Institute and Indiana University Press 1995). 

Her articles have appeared The Nation, The Washington Post, October, New Left Review, PMLA, Sight and Sound, as well as such Russian journals as NLO, Seans, Znamia, Voprosy literatury, Iskusstvo kino.  She has worked as a consultant for the Edinburgh Film Festival, the Library of Congress, and Public Broadcasting for several Frontline television documentaries and was Executive Producer for a CD-rom database on Russian cinema, Kino ottepeli (2002).  At the University of Pittsburgh she is also Director of the Global Studies Center, one of eleven such centers in the US funded by a Title VI grant.  In 2011-12, she has served as president of AATSEEL; from 2002 to 2006, she was on the Board of Directors and then Chair of the Board of the National Council on Eurasian and East European Research (NCEEER), a Title VIII organization (Bureau of Intelligence and Research, State Department). 

Edith W. Clowes (PhD 1981)

In August 2012 Edith W. Clowes joined the faculty of the University of Virginia as the Brown-Forman Professor of Slavic languages and literatures. She spent nearly 14 years at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, where she was a professor and served four years as director of the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies.  Her primary research and teaching interests span the interactions between literature, philosophy, religion, and utopian thought. More recently she has explored the question of imagined geography and perceptions of space and place in contemporary Russian writing culture. Among her recent book-length publications are an interdisciplinary examination of post-Soviet Russian identity, Russia on the Edge: Imagined Geographies and Post-Soviet Identity (Cornell, 2011); a discursive history of Russian philosophy, Fiction’s Overcoat:  Russian Literary Culture and the Question of Philosophy (Cornell, 2004); and an editorial collaboration, Sbornik “Vekhi” v kontekste russkoi kul’tury (The Landmarks Collection in Its Russian Context; Moscow: Nauka, 2007). She is also interested in society, culture, and business in Russia, most recently realized in the Russian translation of an editorial collaboration, Kupecheskaia Moskva: Obrazy ushedshei rossiiskoi burzhuazii (Merchant Moscow: Images of Russia’s Vanished Bourgeoisie (Princeton, 1998); Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2007). She is an associate editor of Russian Review and serves on the editorial boards of Losevskie chteniia and Region. Over her career, Professor Clowes has won over $2.8 million in institutional grants and has garnered about $250,000 in personal research grants, including external grants from the NEH, ACLS, IREX, DAAD, and the Kennan Institute.

Elizabeth Cheresh Allen (PhD 1984)

After getting my Ph. D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures at Yale in 1984, I taught at Yale as an Assistant Professor until1991, when I moved to Bryn Mawr, where I am currently Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature. My scholarship combines broad interests in European cultural history, comparative literature, and relations of aesthetics to ethics with particular interests in the close analysis of Russian literary texts and the critical interpretation of individual Russian writers. I have written two books—Beyond Realism: Turgenev’s Poetics of Secular Salvation (Stanford University Press, 1992) and A Fallen Idol is Still a God: Lermontov and the Quandaries of Cultural Transition (Standford University Press, 2007)—in which I reevaluate the places of these two pivotal figures in Russian and European literary history while reassessing such vexed historical concepts as “realism” and “Romanticism” and exploring such perennial critical themes as the nature of hybrid genres, the ambiguities of literary influence, and the dynamics of cultural transition. My next book, Playing With Fire: The Ethics of Imagination in Russian Literature, addresses the portrayal of imaginative acts of creativity by both nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian authors.  I have also edited an anthology of Turgenev’s fiction and non-fiction, The Essential Turgenev (Northwestern University Press, 1994), I have co-edited with Gary Saul Morson a Festschrift in honor of Professor Robert Louis Jackson, Freedom and Responsibility in Russian Literature (Northwestern University Press, 1995), and I am currently editing a collection of essays on the early works of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy entitled Before They Were Titans (in progress).  I teach courses on the 19th-c. Russian novel, on individual major Russian authors, on European romanticism, and on European realism.

Susanne Fusso (PhD 1984)

I came to the Yale Slavic Department in 1976, and was taught by giants in our field:  Victor Erlich, Edward Stankiewicz, Riccardo Picchio, Alexander Schenker, visiting professors Omry Ronen and William Mills Todd III, and my dissertation adviser, Robert Louis Jackson, who has guided my work ever since by his example and by his constant support.  The grounding I was given in literature and linguistics by these inspiring scholars is indispensable in the work I have done as a teacher of undergraduates at a liberal-arts institution, Wesleyan University, where I am Professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies.  My 2006 book, Discovering Sexuality in Dostoevsky, pursues intellectual and interpretive paths that were first opened to me by Robert Jackson.  My current project is a study of the literary career of Mikhail Katkov, the politically powerful conservative editor and journalist who published the major works of Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy in his journal The Russian Herald.  The study focuses on the ways in which Katkov’s Russian nationalism fueled his drive to create the canon of Russian literature as a recognized part of world literature.  My translation of poet Sergey Gandlevsky’s autobiographical novel Trepanation of the Skull will be published by Northern Illinois University Press in fall 2014.

Laura Olson Osterman (Ph.D 1994)

Laura Olson Osterman is Associate Professor of Slavic Studies at University of Colorado, Boulder. She has published two books: Performing Russia: Folk Revival and Russian Identity (London: Routledge Curzon, 2004), and with Svetlana Adonyeva, The Worlds of Russian Village Women: Tradition, Transgression, Compromise (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012). The latter won two book prizes in 2013: Chicago Folklore Prize (best book-length work of folklore scholarship) and the Elli Köngäs-Maranda Prizefor folklore studies of women. She is the recipient of numerous research grants, including National Council for East European and Eurasian Research (NCEEER) (1998 and 2012-13), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) (2004-05), American Councils for International Education ACTR/ACCELS (1998-99 and 2013), and International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) (2004-05). Currently, she is working on a book and articles with the working title, “Islamic Revival and Folk Revival among Rural Bulgarian Muslims in Post-Communist Bulgaria.” At Yale University,  Prof. Osterman sang with the Yale Slavic Chorus, and then accompanied two other members of the chorus on a 10-month research trip to Bosnia, Bulgaria, and Russia. When they returned, they founded Rozmarin, a small group of singers in New Haven, CT. Prof. Osterman now sings with Planina: Songs of Eastern Europe. She continues to travel to Bulgaria and Russia to research folk music and to lead groups of Americans interested in learning village-style music.

Maxim D. Shrayer (PhD 1995)

After graduating with a PhD in Russian literature in 1995, Maxim D. Shrayer has been teaching at Boston College, where he is Professor of Russian, English, and Jewish Studies. Shrayer’s academic work has focused on Jewish-Russian literature, Russian émigré literature and culture, Soviet poetry, the Shoah in the occupied Soviet territories, and literary translation. He has authored and edited over fifteen books of criticism, biography, non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and translation, among them the critical studies The World of Nabokov’s Stories, Russian Poet/Soviet Jew, and I Saw It: Ilya Selvinsky and the Legacy of Bearing Witness to the Shoah. He has published two literary memoirs Waiting for America: A Story of Emigration and Leaving Russia: A Jewish Story (Finalist of the 2013 National Jewish Book Awards), and of the story collection Yom Kippur in Amsterdam. He edited and cotranslated three books of fiction by his father, David Shrayer-Petrov, for the Library of Modern Jewish Literature. Shrayer won a 2007 National Jewish Book Award for his two-volume Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature, and in 2012 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship. Maxim D. Shrayer is the recipient of a number of awards and fellowships, including those from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Bogliasco Foundation. Shrayer lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with his wife, Dr. Karen E. Lasser, a medical researcher and physician, and their two daughters. For more information, visit Shrayer’s literary website at or his academic website at

Elizabeth A. Papazian (PhD 2000)

Elizabeth A. Papazian is Associate Professor of Russian and Film Studies in the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Maryland. Her research interests include literary and cinematic modernism, documentary modes in literature and film, and the intersection between art and politics in Soviet culture. Her book, Manufacturing Truth: The Documentary Moment in Early Soviet Culture (Northern Illinois University Press, 2009) explores the great upsurge in documentary methods and approaches in the arts in the early Soviet period and reveals how the documentary impulse influenced the development of Stalinist culture. She is currently working on a book project on realism in Soviet cinema.

Hadi Deeb (PhD 2004)

Since 2008 Hadi Deeb has been a Foreign Service Officer at the Department of State, and is currently serving at the U.S. Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan.  From 2005-2008, he worked as a freelance translator from German, Russian, French, and Danish.  In Baku, he is the State Department’s first-ever Regional eDiplomacy Officer, promoting technological inreach and cooperation both within the State Department and among various governmental agencies.  Prior to coming to Baku, he served in the Consular Sections at U.S. Embassy Mexico City (2008-2010) and U.S. Embassy Moscow (2010-2012).  Hadi, who wrote his dissertation about Kafka’s Castle and Nabokov’s Despair, pursues his literary interests on Deeblog (, where he translates poetry and prose and reviews books, films, and shorter fiction.  He is married to Irina Itkin, likewise a Foreign Service Officer, and they have one daughter.

Kate Holland (PhD 2004)

Since 2009 Kate Holland has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto, where she teaches courses in nineteenth century Russian literature and Russian language.  From 2004-2009 she was an Assistant Professor in the Yale Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. Her book, The Novel in the Age of Disintegration: Dostoevsky and Genre in the 1870s was published in 2013 by Northwestern University Press. Her research interests are focused on the question of the relationship between Russian literary works of the second half of the nineteenth century and the complex historical epoch in which they were produced.  She is particularly interested in the literary production of the period following the so-called “Great Reforms” of the 1860s and in how discourses of modernity helped to shape and transform the Russian novel as a genre in this period. She has published articles and book chapters on Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Herzen and Saltykov-Shchedrin.

Jeremi Szaniawski (PhD 2012)

Jeremi Szaniawski received his Ph.D. in Film and Slavic in 2012. He has just released his book, ‘The Cinema of Alexander Sokurov: Figures of Paradox’ (Columbia U Press/Wallflower, 2014). This book is derived from his dissertation, which he wrote under the supervision of Prof. John MacKay. Since graduating from Yale, Jeremi has taught as a visiting professor at Bogazici University (Istanbul) and Korea National University of Arts (Seoul). He is also the co-editor of the Directory of World Cinema: Belgium (Chicago/Intellect, 2014).