Indiana University Bloomington
Arts and Sciences News at Indiana University Bloomington

IU Slavic Welcomes Russell Valentino

Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures in the College of Arts and Sciences is proud to welcome Russell Scott Valentino, as department chair beginning January 2013.

A literary scholar, translator, and editor, Professor Valentino spent the last eighteen years at the University of Iowa, where he chaired the Department of Cinema and Comparative Literature and served as Editor-in-chief of The Iowa Review. He is also the founder and senior editor of Autumn Hill Books, a non-profit independent press that focuses on literary translations of prose and poetry into English.

On his attraction to IU, Valentino notes the department’s “rich history and the exceptional quality of the faculty,” as well as the “deep intellectual environment and extensive network of resources, from REEI to Polish studies, SWSEEL to comparative literature, second language studies, and Slavica Publishers. There's really nothing else like it in the country.”

Valentino received his PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from UCLA in 1993. He is the author of two monographs on Russian nineteenth and twentieth century literature, including Vicissitudes of Genre in the Russian Novel (2001), an exploration of genre mixing in works by Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, and Maksim Gorky, and From Virtue to Virtuality: Property, Commerce and the Quest for Masculine Character from Dostoevsky to DeLillo, (currently under review), which explores the transformation of the centuries-old virtue-in-property ethic as it encountered the rise of commercial culture.

On the decision to select Valentino, outgoing chair Steven Franks says, “He has larger perspective on the field, leadership skills and professional stature, and is an accomplished teacher and scholar. He brings energy and vision to the table.”

So what will Valentino bring to the department? “I really enjoy pulling things together, making connections, and taking positive advantage of the energy and time that people are already devoting to their work,” says Valentino. “I like to make intellectual connections, and, if there aren’t enough resources for something that needs them, I like thinking creatively with colleagues about how to go after them. The IU Slavic and Central European scene has a ton of stuff going on all the time at all levels. I’m looking forward to pulling things together wherever I can, nudging if something needs nudging, getting out of the way of the things that have momentum. From what I’ve seen so far, I suspect mostly I’ll be getting out of the way. .”

Valentino brings with him a three-year NEH Collaborative Research Grant (with Moscow’s Russian State Humanities University, and the University of Zadar, Croatia) on “Translation and the Making of World Literature.” On the purpose of this research, Valentino explains, “We’ll be looking at how certain works are acculturated at certain moments and then become part of the national tradition of that culture. Dante's Inferno is now a staple of the English-language poetry world — there are new translations all the time, and it has influenced a lot of English-language poets. The same is true of Russian poets, and Croatian poets. How did this happen? It wasn’t just because of a single translation or even a handful of them. It occurred over a long period of time, through a variety of linguistic, literary, and broadly cultural factors, including institutional ones like what gets taught in a literary classics course in college, or whether an author has been dead long enough for a work to be in the public domain. This is the kind of stuff we'll be studying.”

Additionally, Valentino has translated eight book-length literary works from Italian, Croatian, and Russian, including Fulvio Tomizza's Materada (2000), Carlo Michelstaedter's Persuasion and Rhetoric (2005), Sabit Madaliev's The Silence of the Sufi (2006), and Predrag Matvejevic's The Other Venice (2007). He is the recipient of two NEA literature fellowships, two Fulbright-Hays Research awards, and a Howard Foundation Grant for literary translation. His essays and translations have appeared in Words Without Borders, Slavic Review, Defunct, The Iowa Review, Two Lines, POROI, Circumference, Asia, The Del Sol Review, Russian Review, 91st Meridian, and Modern Fiction Studies.

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