CfP: Literary Classics and Intellectual Autonomy in the Soviet World from 1920s to 1980s

Call for papers, deadline 30 November 2020

This one-day conference (26-03-2021) aims to explore how classic works of “foreign” literature were experienced by different groups of readers in the Soviet Union from the 1920s to the 1980s


For many Soviet citizens, regardless of their social status and political views, fictional worlds from bygone centuries and alien cultures formed an alternative reality that allowed them to escape the difficulties of everyday life. The translation and publication of classics helped those intellectuals who did not toe the party line to survive, both physically and morally. By attempting to use the concept of world literature for propagandist aims the state unwittingly created a zone of intellectual autonomy that it could not penetrate. We are particularly interested in papers that interrogate ideological positions and interpretative models, regardless of whether they aim to address institutional or individual aspects of literary reception.

We welcome proposals for papers on:
- the archival history of translation
- Soviet critical readings of classics
- translation as a form of reading
-literary classics in Soviet book design and illustration
- the history of reading
- fictional/fictionalised responses to classics
- “vulgar sociology”
- the academic study of foreign literature
- misreading and misinterpretation.

This will be the opening event of a series co-organised by Emily Finer (University of St Andrews) and Petr Budrin (University of Oxford). The series is intended to lead to publication of an edited volume or special issue.

Application process:
- Please send an abstract (max. 250 words) in a PDF attachment to or
- Proposals should include your name, university affiliation (if applicable), and the title of your paper.
- Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes.
- The deadline for abstract submissions is 30th November 2020.

Notification of acceptance will be communicated on 15th December 2020.