Ilya Vinitsky received his diploma with honor in teaching Russian Language and Literature at Moscow State Pedagogical University in 1991, took his Ph.D. (kandidat filologicheskikh nauk) in Russian Literature at Moscow State Pedagogical University in 1995, and received his PhD habilitation (doctor filologicheskikh nauk) in 2005.
Ilya Vinitsky has been a member of the University of Pennsylvania Faculty since Fall 2003, having joined the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the rank of Assistant Professor. Before coming to Penn, he taught at Columbia University (2000) and the University of Pittsburgh (2000-2003) as a Visiting Assistant Professor.
Vinitsky teaches courses focusing on literary, ideological, religious, and political issues, including “Legal Imagination: Criminals and Justice across Literature,” “Madness and Madmen in Russian Culture,” “Russian Nights: Ghosts in Russian Culture,” “From the Other Shore: Russia and the West,” and “The Haunted House: Russian Realism in European Context.” He also teaches Benjamin Franklin seminars on Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and a number of graduate courses at Middlebury College Russian Summer School.
In 2010, Vinitsky received SAS Ira Abrams Award for Distinguished Teaching.
Select Recent Publications:
Ghostly Paradoxes: Modern Spiritualism and Russian Culture in the Age of Realism (University of Toronto Press, 2009; Rated as "Essential" by Choice Reviews")
“On the whole, as I suppose, it makes sense to speak of two polar types of artistic spiritualism in literature (that is, two attempts at the ontology of the “spirit of literature”): the idea of literature as a cunning and pernicious force (“the party of the devil,” in William Blake’s words) and a relationship to it as to a live and free manifestation of spiritual life that transcends and scoffs at material reality. One may call the proponents of this idea the “party of the spirit.”
A Cultural History of Russian Literature (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2009; together with Andrew Wachtel)
“We began this introduction to eighteenth-century Russian culture with Bishop Feofan’s eulogy to Peter the Great. We conclude with a historical anecdote which illuminates some cultural consequences of the Reform. Sometime in the early decades of the nineteenth century, the gifted satirical poet and aristocrat Petr Viazemsky (1792-1878) was visiting one of his remote estates. After a Sunday Mass, an educated (yet old-fashioned in his neoclassical literary tastes) local priest enthusiastically addressed the villagers: “You do not comprehend what kind of Master Our Lord gave you, my Orthodox brothers! He is the Russian Horace, the Russian Catullus, the Russian Martialis!” After each of these lofty attestations, as Viazemsky ironically (and sadly) comments, his pious peasants bowed to earth and vigorously crossed themselves.”
Interpreter’s House: Poetic Semantics and Historical Imagination of Vasily Zhukovsky (NLO, 2006, in Russian)
“Zhukovsky is the prophet not of Revolution (like the early romantics) but of Restoration (like the Biedermeier authors). His works are not products of free creativity, but of translation as an aesthetic and moral principle: “selfless obedience” and “arbitrary subjection” to the “sacred” in the original, the restoration of harmony via “struggle against the obstacle” (Viazemsky) of the chaotic word-for-word translation. It was precisely the venerable, eternal Odyssey (the mother of European poetry) that should have become the culmination of his poetic (i.e., translating) activities, the very epic (“the beginning of a new era”) that would foretell and bring about the victory of justice and order over chaos, and for that reason would prove so indispensable to the contemporary world.”
Madness and the Mad in Russian Culture (Toronto University Press 2007; co-edited with Angela Brintlinger)
“Following tradition, [Catherine the Great] considered melancholy a disease of sick imagination and a Western disorder, poisoning weak Russian souls. It is not an accident that among the patients of the first St. Petersburg mad asylum … were two freemasons V. Ya. Kolokol'nikov and M. I. Nevzorov. Both young scholars had just returned from abroad (commonplace melancholy travelers in the Western tradition) and both were diagnosed as hypochondriacs. Since the time of Catherine the Great this medical (psychiatric) diagnosis has been used by the Russian authorities as a simple and effective way to discredit and/or isolate their political and ideological opponents, including some of the Decembrists, Count Dmitriev-Mamonov, Pyotr Chaadaev, and Leo Tolstoy.”
Vinitsky’s most representative publications include:
"The Worm of Doubt: Prince Andrei's Death and Russian Spiritual Awakening of the 1860s," Anniversary Essays on Tolstoy, ed. by Donna Tussing Orwin. New York, London: Cambridge University Press, 2010, 119-36.
"Krupushki zaumnoi poezii [Grains of Zaum' Poetry]", Russian Literature, 2009. Jan 1-Apr 1; 65 (1-3): 261-279.
“Amor Hereos: the Occult Sources of Russian Romanticism”, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History. Vol. 9, No. 2 (Spring 2008). Pp. 291-316.
“Table Talks: The Spiritualist Controversy of the 1870s and Dostoevsky”, Russian Review. No. 1 (2008). Pp. 88-109.
“A Cheerful Empress and Her Gloomy Critics: Catherine the Great and Eighteenth Century Melancholy Controversy.” Madness and the Mad in Russian Culture. University of Toronto Press, 2007. Pp. 25-45.
“The Invisible Scaffold: Execution and Imagination in Vasilii Zhukovskii's Work,” Times of Trouble. Violence in Russian Literature and Culture. Ed. by Marcus C. Levitt and Tatyana Novikov. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2007. Pp. 57-69.
“Where Bobok Is Buried: The Theosophical Roots of Dostoevskii's 'Fantastic Realism'”, Slavic Review. Vol. 65. No. 3 (2006). Pp. 523-43.
“Russian Dead Poets Society: Spiritualist Poetry as a CulturalPhenomenon.” In: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie (NLO) 2005, #2 (in Russian)
Vinitsky will be on leave next academic year. His research plans include writing a book on the history of poetry for children and a book on melancholy in Russian culture.