Professor Andrew Kahn

Professor and Tutorial Fellow of Russian Literature and Modern Languages

Professor Andrew Kahn FBA is Professor and Tutorial Fellow of Russian Literature and Modern Languages at St Edmund Hall, and Professor of Russian Literature in the University of Oxford. He is a Fellow of the British Academy.

I was born and raised in New York. The Cold War mentality of the 1970s gave Russian civilization a great mystique. I made my first trip to Russia at the end of my school years the very week that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The Iron Curtain had an incredible mystique and also inspired bafflement – if you looked not too far below and behind the surface gloom and deprivation there were fantastic traditions of culture, literature, cinema and art. The noble life-stories of writers who dedicated themselves to truth and art was also highly gripping. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Prize Lecture which I read as a schoolboy made a monumental impression although my professional interests have now carried me far from his fiction.

It’s a pleasure and privilege to teach at Oxford because the resources in my subject are excellent, the colleagues in Modern Languages wonderful and the undergraduates talented and enthusiastic even in the face of a difficult language like Russian. For undergraduates with a serious interest in learning about a language, literature and culture comprehensively I don’t think there is a better course or place than Oxford (that’s a genuine claim). The riches of the literature are vast well beyond the celebrated names of 19th c. novelists. And who can resist Russian jokes? I am the first Tutorial Fellow in Russian at St Edmund Hall and am proud to occupy this post and to be Professor of Russian Literature in the University of Oxford.

I have been visiting professor at Berkeley, Columbia, and the Ecole Normale Superieure, rue d’Ulm, and have given invited lectures at Cambridge, Columbia, University of Colorado (Boulder), Yale University, and Harvard University.

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 modernisation and secularisation 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. Outside of my work on the Russian Enlightenment I have published an edition of Montesquieu’s masterpiece The Persian Letters (Oxford, 2008), which gave me a chance to pursue some questions outside the Russian context and for a larger audience. I am currently working on a number of interesting projects in this area of Russia and the history of ideas, including a monograph and a translation.

2. The work of Alexander Pushkin
Much of my research has been on the work of Russia’s most famous writer, Alexander Pushkin about whom I have published a number of books and articles, including an edition of his prose superbly translated by the late Alan Myers (for Oxford World’s Classics). There are few figures more compelling than Pushkin – a political upstart and exile, seducer, psychologist of genius and most exquisite poet. Like all great writers he is a friend for life.

3. Russian poetry: the traditions
Outside the above areas of concentration, I have produced a steady stream of articles on major poets of the 20th century, including Joseph Brodsky, and am currently finishing a monograph about Osip Mandelstam, for many the greatest Russian poet of the 20th century, called Mandelstam and Experience. I am the author of the article on Russian poetry in The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics, ed. Roland Greene and Stephen Cushman, Fourth Edition, a standard reference work in the subject.

In addition to several dozen scholarly articles (some listed on my Faculty webpage), my publications also include the following items of possible interest to undergraduates and postgraduate students:

Catherine the Great, Selected Letters, trans. Andrew Kahn and Kelsey Rubin-Detlev with an Introduction, Commentary and Notes. Oxford University Press, 2018.

Andrew Kahn, Mark Lipovetsky, Irina Reyfman, and Stephanie Sandler, A History of Russian Literature. Oxford University Press, 2018. 978 pages. ISBN: 9780199663941

Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories, edited with Introduction and Notes by Andrew Kahn, Oxford University Press, 2015.

Mikhail Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time, trans. Nicolas Pasternak Slater, edited with Introduction and Notes by Andrew Kahn. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Pushkin’s Lyric Intelligence
Oxford University Press, 2008, 416 pages (paperback, 2012)
ISBN13: 9780199234745, ISBN10: 0199234744

Montesquieu, The Persian Letters, trans. Margaret Mauldon,
edited with Introduction by Andrew Kahn
Oxford University Press, 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0-19-280635-2

The Cambridge Companion to Pushkin, edited by Andrew Kahn
Cambridge University Press, 2007
ISBN-13: 9780521604710 | ISBN-10: 0521604710

N.M. Karamzin, Letters of a Russian Traveller
translated with an introduction, commentary and essay Karamzin’s Discourses of Enlightenment (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2003), 593pp.
ISBN: 0729408116

Pushkin’s The Bronze Horseman
London & Bristol: Duckworth, 1998
ISBN: 1853994448

Alexander Pushkin, The Queen of Spades and Other Stories
ed. Andrew Kahn, trans. Alan Myers
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, World’s Classics,1997)
ISBN: 0192839543

Where next?

Modern Languages (and Joint Schools)

Undergraduate course page

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Andrew Kahn appointed Academic Editor of Electronic Enlightenment based at the Bodleian Library

20 Oct 2021

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