Department of German and Russian Studies
German and Russian Studies @ the MU logo University of Missouri
451 Strickland Hall | Columbia, MO 65211-4170
email: | phone: 573-882-4328 | fax: 573-884-8456
Faculty | Kelly

Martha Kelly

Martha Kelly




Assistant Professor of Russian
Education: PhD, Stanford University, 2007
BA, Cambridge University, 1999
Office: 218D Strickland Hall
Phone: 882-2546


I have taught a range of courses at MU, from Russian Civilization (a large lecture course) to small discussion-based courses (“The Russian Poetic Tradition,” “Russian Modernism,” “Tolstoy and Dostoevsky,” “The Russian Novel”) to language courses from first- to third-year.

In my teaching I frequently incorporate visual culture, encouraging students to draw cross-media comparisons. Film plays some part in practically all the courses I teach. Through reference to visual, verbal and musical compositions, I emphasize the broader cultural movements to which texts respond.


While I research a variety of topics ranging from the late nineteenth century to the present, three basic interests unite my work: poetry, religion and visual culture.

I recently finished a manuscript entitled “Unorthodox Beauty: Russian Modernism and Its New Religious Aesthetics.” In this project I show how poets negotiated Russia’s relation to modernity through re-envisioning traditional religion in their own work. These modernist poets (I investigate Aleksandr Blok, Mikhail Kuzmin, Anna Akhmatova and Boris Pasternak) seek to represent a peculiarly Russian modernity—an “alternative” modernity—that is distinguished for being a specifically religious modernity. Their versions of Russian Orthodox Christianity, and its liturgy, are as unorthodox as they are rich and imaginative, and their poetry emblematizes the increasingly complex place of religion in modern society.

I am beginning work on a new project, on religious discourse in Russian literary journalism, in the pre- and post-Soviet periods. I am examining, above all, the broad genre of publitsistika—works published in journals and other periodicals that offer commentary on current social issues—a genre that in some ways overlaps with the essay and in some ways with other kinds of journalistic writing. Examples of publitsistika allow us to see where and how literary writers try to speak into the public sphere. And a survey of key religious and literary (and religious-literary!) journals can, I believe, help give us a clearer picture of the shared space of public discourse in Russia, and how religion figures in that space.

Additionally, I am co-editing with Sibelan Forrester a companion volume for Silver Age Poetry. In this collection we include not only brief bios and key poems but also manifestoes, correspondence, publicistic writings, memoirs and even visuals from the dizzyingly rich journal culture of the period. What is more, we trace the personal and professional networks that so shaped the conversation that was the Silver Age.


Forthcoming (Russian History): “Social Transformation as Transdisfiguration in Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago.”

“The Art of Knowledge: Music and Ritual in Two Chekhov Stories,” Slavic and East European Journal 56 (January 2012).

“Aleksandr Blok’s Other Body,” Russian Review 70 (January 2011).

Under revision: “The Choralic Self in the Poetry of Ol’ga Sedakova” (article-length study).

Forthcoming:“Mikhail Kuzmin,” Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism

Translation: Ol’ga Sedakova, “The Morality of Art, or the Evils of Mediocrity,” St. Katherine Review 1 (January 2011).

Under contract (Academic Studies Press): “The Silver Age: Texts and Contexts” (co-edited with Sibelan Forrester, for the North American classroom).

Under consideration:“Unorthodox Beauty: Russian Modernism and Its New Religious Aesthetic” (book-length manuscript).

Forthcoming (Russian Review): Review, Gatrall, Jefferson J. A., and Douglas Greenfield, eds. Alter Icons: The Russian Icon and Modernity. University Park: Penn State UP, 2011.

Review, Jenifer Presto, Beyond the Flesh: Alexander Blok, Zinaida Gippius, and the Symbolist Sublimation of Sex (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008), in Russian Review 68 (October 2009).

Review, Valerie A. Kivelson and Joan Neuberger, eds. Picturing Russia: Explorations in Visual Culture (Yale University Press, 2008), in Russian Review 68 (January 2009).