Upcoming | Day | Week | Month

Planting the Flag: The Nonfiction of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky

Friday, October 21, 2016, 4:00pm

College Arts & Humanities Institute

Planting the Flag: The Nonfiction of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky

October 21 and 22, 2016
College Arts & Humanities Institute
(1211 E. Atwater Avenue)

Russian modernist Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky went unpublished in his lifetime, but when his work appeared after the disintegration of the Soviet Union he rapidly became known as “the Russian Borges.” His metafictional novellas and philosophical fables have now begun to come out in English with the New York Review of Books Classics, and his international reputation is on the rise as well.

IU’s symposium, the first in the country devoted entirely to this major new figure, examines Krzhizhanovsky’s oeuvre and his ascendance from early Soviet obscurity to contemporary world literature, with special attention to his theoretical essays. Inhabiting the generic borderland between poetry and speculative nonfiction, works like “The Poetics of Titles,” “Countries That Don’t Exist,” and “The Dramaturgy of the Chessboard” are playful marvels of the theoretical imagination as well as a key to the author’s complex and cryptic literary achievements. Soon they will be available in English, since the conference organizers are planning to publish a selection of these works in translation.

Highlights include presentations by Caryl Emerson of Princeton University, Krzhizhanovsky’s most vocal champion in the English speaking world; Joanne Turnbull, Krhizhanovsky’s most prominent translator; screenings of theatrical adaptations of Krzhizhanovsky’s work; and a keynote address by Vadim Perelmuter, the poet and scholar who first discovered Krzhizhanovsky’s work after tracking down a reference in a dead man’s diary.

Co-sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the College Arts & Humanities Institute, the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, and by the Germanic and Slavic Studies Department at the University of Georgia, Athens.

For more information, please contact Jacob Emery at jacemery@indiana.edu.



4 PM: Framing conversation with Alex Spektor and Jacob Emery
5 PM: Dinner reception
6 PM: Keynote address by Vadim Perelmuter (in Russian): “Над его книгами и книгой о нем” [“Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky: Contemplating over His Books, over a Book about Him”]
7:30 PM: Dessert and screening (in Russian): “Штемпель, Москва” [Postmark, Moscow]


8:30 AM: Coffee and conversation

9 AM: Panel presentations:

  • Karen Link Rosenflanz (College of St. Scholastica): “Staking a Claim: Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s Delineation of Thematic Territory”

In his «Тематические заявки» and entries to the Dictionary of Literary Terms, S. Krzhizhanovsky provides recursive insights into his own methodological approach. The paper examines the pattern of fundamental bifurcations in Krzhizhanovsky’s topic analyses, and seeks to define philosophical and literary influences. Such insights allow one to trace recurring themes in Krzhizhanovsky’s interpretations of the works of other literary figures such as Bernard Shaw.

  • Benjamin Paloff (University of Michigan): “Your Nightmares Have Already Come True: Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s Writings on War”

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s notebooks on the life of Moscow in the first year of World War II, with their special attention to how the casual observer might see the changing space of the city, demonstrate a remarkable consistency with both his theatrical criticism and his phantasmagoric fiction. Drawing on those passages that best reflect Krzhizhanovsky’s vision for a book-length study of Moscow during the war years, a project he never completed, this paper argues that in treating his subject Krzhizhanovsky employs the same narrative methods as those we would otherwise expect from his stories and journalism, suggesting a striking continuity not only in his strategies for representation, but more importantly in his conception of the world(s) he represents.

  • Muireann Maguire (University of Exeter): “Off the Peg: Sigizmund Krzhizhanovskii and the Science of Titles”

Krzhizhanovskii’s three essays on book and play titles demonstrate the firmness of his belief that the title should act as a miniature exemplar of the plot; or, as he puts it in his story “The Bookmark”: ‘If the title is right, the whole text will hang on it, like a coat on a peg’. This paper briefly recapitulates his personal philosophy of titles before attempting to situate Krzhizhanovskii’s position in the context of 20th-century Westerntitrologie (Claude Duchet) or ‘titology’ (Giancarlo Maiarino), as the systematic study of titles has been named. Other important scholars in this field include Gerard Genette, Harry Levin, and even Wayne Booth. I will investigate whether, and where, Krzhizhanovskii’s independently evolved views diverged from those of the Western school, and (if space allows) I will try to establish whether he followed his own rules when naming his literary productions.


11:15: Roundtable with Elizabeth Geballe (Indiana University), Alex Tullock (Harvard University), and Abigail Weil (Harvard University)
1 PM: Lunch
2 PM: Roundtable on translation with Anthony Anemone (New School), Anne Fisher (independent scholar), Timothy Langen (University of Missouri), and Joanne Turnbull (independent scholar)


4:15 PM: Caryl Emerson (Princeton University) and Alisa Ballard (Ohio State University): Krzhizhanovsky’s “Philosopheme for the Theater” in performance with Princeton actors

In their joint presentation, Alisa Ballard and Caryl Emerson will examine Krzhizhanovsky’s dramatic principles alongside experiments in staging his stories carried out by our Princeton theater students (under the direction of Tim Vasen) in a studio seminar that the three of us co-taught in spring 2015. In these clips the students take on the challenges posed to physical theater by SK’s fantastical stories — for example, how to perform a crack in time and space, a living letter, a dream, a Role, a hyperbole in proportions?  Creative solutions to these philosophical questions constitute a phenomenology of SK’s theater.

About the participants:

Karen Link Rosenflanz is Associate Professor of Russian and German in the Global, Cultural, and Language Studies Department at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota, where she teaches Russian and German language, literature and film, as well as courses on contemporary European culture. Her monograph, Hunter of Themes (2005), analyzes wordplay in the works of the Russian author Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky.

Alex Tullock is a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University. His interests include metafictional narratives, coincidences, miracles, and fantastical occurrences in literature, religious philosophy and mysticism in the twentieth century, and hermeneutics. His dissertation is tentatively titled “Art of the Afterlife: Resurrection and Reanimation in Soviet Literature and Film.”

Tim Langen teaches Russian literature, language, and cultural history at the University of Missouri (Columbia). His research interests include Russian literature and intellectual history of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, especially Nikolai Gogol, Andrey Bely, and, recently, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky.

Muireann Maguire lectures in Russian at the University of Exeter. She is currently working on Hideous Agonies, a study of childbirth as a theme in Russian and Western literature. Her book on Soviet Gothic prose,Stalin’s Ghosts, appeared in 2012, and she contributed a comparative chapter on Gogol and Krzhizhanovskii to Russian Writers and the Fin de Siecle: The Twilight of Realism (ed. Bowers and Kokobobo; Cambridge University Press, 2015). She has also edited and translated a collection of twentieth-century Russian ghost stories, Red Spectres (Overlook, 2012), including a translation of Krzhizhanovskii’s “Fantom”.

Anne O. Fisher’s translation of Ksenia Buksha’s avant-garde novel The Freedom Factory (winner of the 2014 National Bestseller prize in Russia) is forthcoming with Phoneme Media in 2017. Fisher has also translated the novels of Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov, as well as short stories by Andrey Platonov, Margarita Meklina, Polina Klyukina, and Nilufar Sharipova. Translations from their completed manuscript, The Joyous Science: Selected Poems of Maxim Amelin, have appeared in Asymptote, the Brooklyn Rail, Two Lines, Circumference Magazine, and elsewhere, and are forthcoming in the International Poetry Review and Cardinal Points. Fisher holds a PhD from the University of Michigan and lives in Indiana with her family.

Joanne Turnbull’s translations in collaboration with Nikolai Formozov of Krzhizhanovsky’s fiction include Memories of the Future, The Letter Killers Club, Autobiography of a Corpse and The Return of Munchausen. She is currently at work on another selection of his stories — 18 lighter, slighter ones — tentatively titled Unwitting Street.

Antony Anemone is an Associate Professor of Russian at The New School in New York City, Anthony Anemone is a specialist in modern Russian literature and cinema. The editor of Just Assassins: The Culture of Terrorism in Russia (Northwestern University Press 2010) and co-translator and editor of “I Am A Phenomenon Quite out of the Ordinary” The Notebooks, Diaries, and Letters of Daniil Kharms (Academic Studies Press 2013), he is presently at work on a monograph devoted to the life and works of the Soviet-Georgian filmmaker, Mikhail Kalatozov.

Benjamin Paloff is the author of Lost in the Shadow of the Word (Space, Time, and Freedom in Interwar Eastern Europe) (Northwestern University Press, 2016) and of the poetry collections And His Orchestra (2015) and The Politics (2011). He has been a fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts, the US Fulbright Programs, and the Stanford Humanities Center, among others, and teaches at the University of Michigan.

Elizabeth Geballe is a Ph.D. student in Comparative Literature with a minor in Slavic Languages and Literatures at Indiana University, Bloomington. She is currently completing her dissertation, tentatively entitled “Exquisite Corpses: Assembling the Relics of Russian Realism in the 20-th Century.”

Alisa Ballard is an assistant professor at The Ohio State University in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures. She completed her PhD at Princeton University earlier this year, with a dissertation on the actor’s consciousness in Russian modernist philosophy of theater. Her translation of Krzhizhanovsky’s play Tot tretii and selections from his essays on theater is forthcoming with University of Wisconsin Press.

Caryl Emerson is A. Watson Armour III University Professor Emeritus of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton University. Research interests include the translation and interpretation of works of Mikhail Bakhtin; Russian 19th century literature (especially Pushkin and Tolstoy); Russian opera, vocal and incidental music (Musorgsky, Shostakovich and Prokofiev); and the adaptation of Russian classics to the 20th-century stage. Among her current projects: Russian contributions to religious-humanistic philosophy; the “integral humanisms” of Vladimir Solovyov and the French Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain; theories of the actor; and Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky as modernist and philosopher of theater.

Alex Spektor is an Assistant Professor at University of Georgia, Athens. He specializes in Russian 19th- and 20th-century literature. He is finishing his monograph The Reader as Accomplice: Narrative Ethics in Dostoevsky, Gombrowicz, and Nabokov for publication. Spektor published articles on Dostoevsky, Mandelstam, Gombrowicz, and Derzhavin.

Vadim Perelmuter is a poet, cultural critic, and literary scholar who has discovered, prepared for publication, and edited Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s archive. He is an editor of Toronto Slavic Quarterly and a member of Russian Academy of Natural Sciences.

Abigail Weil, current doctoral student in the Harvard University Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, holds a B.A. from Bard College and an M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin.  Weilworks primarily on twentieth century Czech prose, primarily Hašek.  Other interests include architecture, queer theory, food writing and mystifications.

Jacob Emery teaches Slavic and Comparative Literature at Indiana University and has published on topics ranging from medieval coinage to aerial photography. His first book, Alternative Kinships: Economy and Family in Russian Modernism, is scheduled to appear with Northern Illinois University Press. Currently forthcoming essays include work on Krzhizhanovsky, on currency exchange rates between the land of the living and the land of the dead, and on the afterlife of Romantic aesthetics in contemporary science fiction.