Literary Scholarship in Late Imperial Russia
Rituals of Academic Institutionalization

Andy Byford

Legenda (General Series)


14 November 2007  •  200pp

ISBN: 978-1-904350-91-0 (hardback)  •  RRP £75, $99, €85


The late nineteenth and early twentieth century was decisive moment in the institutionalization of Russia's literary scholarship. This is the first book in the English language to provide an in-depth analysis of the emergence of Russia's literary academia in the pre-Revolutionary era. In particular, Byford examines the rhetoric of self-representation of major academic establishments devoted to literary study, the canonisation of 'exemplary' literary historians and philologists (Buslaev, Grot, Veselovskii, Potebnia, Ovsianiko-Kulikovskii), and attempts by Russian literary academics of this era to define their work as a distinct form of scholarship (nauka). By analysing a range of academic rituals, from celebrations of institutional anniversaries to professors' inaugural lectures, and by dissecting the discourse of scholars' obituaries, commemorative speeches and manuals in scholarly methodology, Byford reveals how the identity of literary studies as a discipline was constructed in Russia. He offers insights not only into fin-de-siècle Russian literary scholarship, but also into wider questions of how academic fields of study become institutions.

Andy Byford is a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford.


  • ‘A thoroughly researched, thoughtfully conceptualized, and highly informative book that will hopefully lead to further interest in the remarkable yet in many cases still underrecognized scholarship that emerged just before and after the turn of the twentieth century.’ — Barry P. Scherr, Russian Review 67.3, July 2008, 500-01
  • ‘This elegantly written account of the development of Russian literary scholarship is distinctive for its focus on academics and university professors (kabinetnye uchenye) rather than the more familiar, civic-minded criticism associated with the names of Chernyshevskii or Belinskii... it affords a number of extremely valuable insights that are highly pertinent for the student of Russian intellectual culture more broadly.’ — Frances Nethercott, Revolutionary Russia 22.1, 2009, 97-99
  • ‘Byford’s monograph makes two extremely important systemic contributions. First, it is part of a process of reassessment of the Russian nineteenth century, whereby cultural historians attempt to step out of the teleological shadow cast by the gargantuan events of the early twentieth century, and indeed, to redress the methodological blindspots that grew from the Soviet era; second, Byford also joins those few (in the UK, largely Bakhtin Circle-oriented Russianists) who strive to contextualize the insights of early twentieth-century Russian literary theorists.’ — Carol Adlam, Modern Language Review 105.2, 2010, 620-21 (full text online)
  • ‘Ces quelques remarques n'enlèvent rien à la qualité de cet ouvrage, le premier à aborder les études littéraires en Russie sous l'angle des processus d'institutionnalisation et qui, à ce titre, constitue une étude véritablement pionnière.’ — Catherine Depretto, Cahiers du Monde Russe 2010, 794-96

Bibliography entry:

Byford, Andy, Literary Scholarship in Late Imperial Russia: Rituals of Academic Institutionalization (Cambridge: Legenda, 2007)

First footnote reference: 35 Andy Byford, Literary Scholarship in Late Imperial Russia: Rituals of Academic Institutionalization (Cambridge: Legenda, 2007), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Byford, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Byford, Andy. 2007. Literary Scholarship in Late Imperial Russia: Rituals of Academic Institutionalization (Cambridge: Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Byford 2007: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Byford 2007: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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