Six talks to be featured at free Russian Studies Conference

contact: Jeanne Baron
| WMU News
Photo of logo for Russian studies conference.

The conference is Nov. 15.

KALAMAZOO—Various topics will be covered during Western Michigan University's Russian Studies Conference from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, in Brown Hall rooms 1025 and 1028.

The conference will feature six talks by current and retired scholars and artists. No registration is required to attend this free, public event, which is being organized by the WMU Department of English and the Kalamazoo Russian Culture Association.


  • "Pushkin's African Great-Grandfather, Ibrahim Hannibal" will be presented at 10 a.m. by Dr. William F. Santiago, WMU associate professor emeritus of Africana studies and a former director of the University's Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations.

    Santiago will identify the conceptual framework for researching this subject and put the subject in context. He will address the history of the Hannibal family tree, which he says illustrates the racialization of class during the worldwide slave trade from the 1200s to the 1800s.

    Santiago will also mention other forcefully displaced Africans, who became the ancestors of intellectual dynasties and royal houses in Russia, Italy, England, Austria and France before Gen. Hannibal's time.
  • "Dostoevsky's Subterranean Homesick Blues: 'Notes From Underground'" will be presented at 11 a.m. by Scott M. Friesner, WMU faculty specialist I-lecturer in the University's Lee Honors College and previously a member of the University's English faculty.

    According to Friesner, readers of "Notes from Underground" discover through Dostoevsky's feverish anonymous narrator, the Underground Man, that reason cannot square the irrational labors and desires of the mind. He will explore the significance of the book within the cultural debates of Dostoevsky's era, taking the author's suggestion that sometimes "2 + 2 = 5" serves as a gateway to those irrational dimensions found in both individuals and cultures.

    Friesner also will discuss the book's modern philosophical and psychological implications.
  • "The Relevancy of Modern Russian History" will be presented at noon by Dr. Edward A. Cole, retired professor of history at Grand Valley State University.

    Cole will focus on Russia since Peter the Great's early 17th-century cultural revolution. He will discuss what Russia's modern history teaches about the about the country's present disagreements with the Western international community, which are largely driven by a growing desire for modern life and the attempt to break free of traditional ways.
  • "Why Manuscripts Don't Burn" will be presented at 1 p.m. by Dr. Christine A. Rydel, professor of modern languages and literatures/Russian at GVSU.

    Rydel will focus on Mikhail Bulgakov's book, "The Master and Margarita." Thanks to her connection with a publishing house called Ardis, Rydel associated with some of the bravest writers of the Soviet era and witnessed the kinds of censorship Bulgakov experienced with "The Master and Margarita."

    She will explain how the author not only accurately described the fate of other writers during his own time, but also the fate of Russian writers during the Soviet era's next 50 years.
  • "The Making of a Russian Orthodox Icon" at 2 p.m. will be presented by Michael Northrop, professor of art and humanities and chair of the art department at Glen Oaks Community College, and Garrylee McCormick, a freelance wig master for touring national productions who serves as hair and wig master for WMU's Department of Theatre as well as the Barn Theatre in Augusta, Mich.

    Northrop also is a painter, 2-D artist, sculptor and writer of icons.

    McCormick has an interest in photography and icons. His works blend old and new using the modern media of photography, photo silkscreen, Polaroid transfers, xerography and digital photography. Recent travels to Russia gave him a chance to study traditional icon painting in St. Petersburg's Nevsky Lavra monastery.
  • "Cartoon Medievalism: The Discursive Space in the Animated 'Ilya Muromets i Solovey Razboynik'" will be presented at 3 p.m. by Kate Koppy, a doctoral candidate in the Comparative Literature Program at Purdue University.

    Koppy will focus on the 2007 animated feature film, "Ilya Muromets i Solovey Razboynik." She will examine the ways in which the film's adapters use the plot of themes of that heroic epic as a discursive space for exploring issues facing contemporary Russia.

For more information, contact Judith Rypma, master faculty specialist-lecturer in WMU's Department of English, at or (269) 387-2628.

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