Associate Professor of Russian
PhD University of Washington
Russian language and literature, Russian film, translation
423 Lattimore Hall
John Givens’s first book, Prodigal Son: Vasilii Shukshin in Soviet Russian Culture, examined the life and works of arguably the most popular Soviet artist to emerge in the post-Stalin period. Shukshin was an extremely prolific actor, director and writer who reached more Soviets in more media than any other artist of the sixties and seventies. His life and works were a study in border crossing, whether between artistic genres, cultural strata, political camps or demographic divisions. As such, Shukshin altered important paradigms through which we have traditionally understood Soviet writers and Soviet literature. In addition to his monograph on Shukshin, Givens co-translated a volume of his prose, titled Stories from a Siberian Village. The anthology is the most comprehensive collection of Shukshin’s stories to appear in English and reflects Givens’s interest in the art of translation. Givens has also been editor since 1999 of Russian Studies in Literature, a quarterly journal of translations from the Russian literary press. He is currently completing his second book, The Image of Christ in Russian Literature, which focuses on four writers—Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Mikhail Bulgakov and Boris Pasternak—and their creative engagement with the meaning and image of Jesus Christ. Central to the study is how each writer’s artistic imaging of Christ not only illuminates their personal philosophical and artistic concerns, but also sheds light on the social and political environments in which each writer projected his image of Christ. In thus tracing the changing face of Christ over two centuries of Russian cultural history, Givens also discusses what it means to re-image Christ in a variety of ways, theological, political, social and aesthetic. Givens has published on a wide variety of Russian authors, from Dostoevsky and Tolstoy to Valentin Rasputin and Joseph Brodsky. His research and teaching have been animated by Harold Bloom’s idea that we read for personal reasons and in a deeply personal way “in order to strengthen the self and learn its authentic interests.” Following Bloom, he strives to practice the art of criticism “in order to make what is implicit in a book finely explicit.”
- Prodigal Son: Vasilii Shukshin in Soviet Russian Culture, Northwestern University Press, 2000.
- Vasily Shukshin. Stories from a Siberian Village. Trans. Laura Michael and John Givens. Northern Illinois University Press, 1996.
- Vsevolod Garshin (introduction, annotated selection of 19 articles, and bibliography), Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism Series. Layman Poupard Publishing, forthcoming, 2012.
- “A Narrow Escape into Faith? Dostoevsky’s Idiot and the Christology of Comedy,” Russian Review, vol. 70, No. 1 (January, 2011) 95-117.
- “Divine Love in War and Peace and Anna Karenina,” Записки русской академической группы в США / Transactions of the Association of Russian American Scholars in the USA, Vol. XXXVI (2010) 165-90.
- “The Fiction of Fact and the Fact of Fiction: Hayden White and War and Peace,” Tolstoy Studies Journal, vol. XXI (2009), 16-33.
- “Screening the Short Story: The Films of Vasilii Shukshin,” Film Adaptations of Literature in Russia and the Soviet Union, 1917-2001: Screening the Word, ed. Stephen Hutchings and Anat Vernitskaia (London: Routledge, 2004) 116-32.
- “Call Me to the Bright Beyond: Cultural Mobility and the Landscape of Longing in the Works of Vasilii Shukshin,” Russian Studies in Literature, 37:3 (Summer, 2001) 60-77.
- “Vasilii Shukshin and the ‘Audience of Millions’: Kalina krasnaia and the Power of Popular Cinema.” Russian Review, 58:2 (April, 1999) 268-85.
- “Art and Remembrance: Joseph Brodsky’s ‘Pamiati ottsa: Avstraliia’ (‘In Memory of My Father: Australia’).” Essays in Poetics, 23 (Autumn, 1998): 238-51.
- “Wombs, Tombs and Mother Love: A Freudian Reading of Goncharov’s Oblomov.” Oblomov: A Critical Companion. Ed. Galya Diment. Northwestern UP, 1998. 90-109.
- “Author and Authority: Valentin Rasputin’s ‘Vniz i vverkh po techeniiu’ as a Discourse on Writing.’“ Modern Language Review. 91 (1996): 427-40.
- “The Anxiety of a Dedication: Joseph Brodsky’s ‘Kvintet/Sextet’ and Mark Strand.” Russian Literature. XXXVII (1995): 203-226.
- “Reflections, Crooked Mirrors, Magic Theaters: Tat’iana Tolstaia’s ‘Peters.’“ Fruits of Her Plume: Essays on Contemporary Russian Women’s Culture. Ed. Helena Goscilo. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1993. 251-70.
- “Особенности реализатции экзистенциалистских идей в прозе В.М. Шукшина” [Existentialist ideas in the prose of V.M. Shukshin.] В.М. Шукшин:философ, историк, художник [V.M. Shukshin: philosopher, historian, artist.] Ed. S.M. Kozlova. Barnaul, AGU, 1992. 11-36.
Courses in 19th and 20th century Russian literature, Russian film and all levels of Russian language.
- Fall semester literature courses (on a rotating basis): Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Dostoevsky, or Great Russian Writers
- Spring semester literature and film courses (on a rotating basis): Image of Christ in Russian Literature, Russia Goes to the Movies, or Russian Literature Between the Revolutions
Honors and Activities
- University of Rochester Goergen Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (2011)
- University of Rochester Student Association Professor of the Year Award in Humanities (2000, 2011)
- University of Rochester Edward Peck Curtis Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award (2000)
- University of Rochester Student Association Professor of the Year Award, Finalist (1998, 2002)
- Kennan Institute Research Scholarship, Alternate (1996-97)
- Fulbright-Hays dissertation award; IREX long-term research award, Russia (1991-92)