You are in: Submissions > Select unit of assessment > UOA 51 Russian, Slavonic and East European Languages > University of Durham > RA5a

UOA 51 - Russian, Slavonic and East European Languages

University of Durham

RA5a: Research environment and esteem

1. Introduction

The Department of Russian at Durham has been transformed since 2001, in terms of its intrinsic and extrinsic research environments. Integration into the School of Modern Languages and Cultures (MLAC) has allowed the Department to function within the context of more extensive research-support systems, rather than as the entirely autonomous Ustinov Institute. MLAC, which comprises the Departments of Arabic, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish, has coalesced into more than simply an administrative unit. While departments maintain autonomy in the delivery of teaching and the conduct of research, research strategy is now supported at School level by the School Research Committee and Executive Group, which are also responsible for staffing policy. The focus and leadership provided by these School structures have led to the formation of cross-departmental research clusters and two research centres with related MA programmes. The aim has been to enhance the overall research environment, foster collaborative research practices and ensure the continued development of a School-wide postgraduate community.

In Russian itself, a series of new appointments since 2001 has substantially enhanced the scope and volume of the Department’s research. The initial appointment of
Harrington and Bartlett, supported by two dedicated Language Instructors, was followed in 2004 by the appointment of O’Meara to a Chair in Russian and the Principalship of Van Mildert College (each of which accounts for 50% of his time). In addition to contributing to undergraduate teaching, O’Meara plays a full role in Departmental and School research activities. Reznik was appointed to a temporary lectureship in 2006 and, more recently, the appointment of Renfrew (replacing Bartlett) as Reader and Head of Department has further extended the range of the Department’s research activities, as well as delivering greatly enhanced research leadership and addressing the issues of improved external grant income and postgraduate student numbers. In increasing the breadth and scope of the Department’s research activities, these appointments have at the same time embedded Russian more firmly into the wider School research environment.

The Department’s research is focused on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, spanning four inter-related areas of Russian history and cultural production: theory and history of literature (
Harrington and Renfrew); history (O’Meara); linguistics and linguistic historiography (Reznik); and cinema (Renfrew). Harringtons developing interest in photography and visual culture and Renfrews work on cinema have, in addition, opened up synergies with colleagues elsewhere in the School, and particularly with those associated with the Durham Centre for Advanced Photography Studies (DCAPS), an interdisciplinary research centre with members drawn from the Departments of French, Spanish, German and Geography. Within these specialisations, members of the Department have published work during the census period that reflects a broad range of interests in Russian Studies, including Akhmatova (Harrington, RA2 1-4), Bakhtin (Renfrew, RA2 1, 2 and 4), Cinema (Renfrew, RA2 3), Decembrism (O’Meara, RA2 1 and 3), Dostoevsky (Harrington, RA2 2), Formalism (Renfrew, RA2 1-3), and Marr (Reznik, RA2 1).

2. Structure of the Research Environment

(a) Institutional structures and research environment
There is a three-tier structure in place for the development, support and management of research. The University Research Committee fosters and oversees research activity across the institution by drawing up and reviewing overall strategies and policies, identifying necessary resources, stimulating new initiatives, and monitoring progress and performance. The Faculty of Arts and Humanities Research Committee is chaired by the Dean and comprises Directors of Research from constituent Departments, with a remit to implement University policies across the Faculty and to foster a productive research culture by facilitating interaction and collaboration within and beyond the University. Faculty Research Committee also provides information on and stimulates response to funding opportunities; plans and monitors research training and support for staff and research students; promotes and supports research centres. The research activity of colleagues in the Russian Department is directly managed by the Head of Department, with the close support of the School Research Committee and Director of Research, whose role is to encourage both individuals and groups to undertake major research projects (see under ‘Staff and Students’).

The University Research Committee is also responsible for the maintenance and development of the research infrastructure, including the library and equipment. The University Library offers a good level of support for research in Russian Studies; budget allocations having been increased by 100% in real terms since 2001. The Russian holdings at Durham contribute to CoFoR’s National Desiderata List for Russian and East European Studies (originally compiled under the RSLP COCOREES project and last updated in 2003, now being revised in a further effort to identify important REES resources not readily accessible to researchers in the UK). In addition to extensive Russian and Slavonic book holdings, major journals in the field are well represented in the library; there is
also a growing collection of electronic journals and databases, and an effective Inter-Library Loan system.

The Department of Russian holds regular research seminars as part of the overall seminar programme coordinated by the School Research Committee, which have been addressed during the census period by a number of experts in the field of Russian Studies, including Geoffrey Hosking, Valentin Kataev, and David Shepherd, who in 2007 gave the Leslie Brooks Memorial Lecture, which is delivered annually by a leading academic from across Modern Languages. The frequency and focus of these seminars have been enhanced from October 2007, when, in parallel with MLAC’s research seminar series, the Department launched the Durham ‘Seminar on Russian Cultural and Critical Studies’. The Department has also recently begun the process of establishing collaborative links with Durham’s Institute of Advanced Study (IAS), which was established in 2006 to stimulate and support multidisciplinary initiatives at the leading edge of the research agenda. The Department is planning two lectures on ‘The Future of the Humanities’ with IAS in early 2009 as part of the Leverhulme Visiting Professorship scheme.

Members of the Department are also particularly active within the broader national and international research environment, through various activities relating to the work of BASEES, and through collaboration on a range of projects in and beyond the field of Russian studies (see below under ‘Research profile’).

(b) Research profile of the Department

The Department’s research is concentrated in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with four principal areas of specialisation:

1. Theory and History of Literature
Members of the Department have interests in the poetry of the twentieth century (Harrington) and narrative fiction (Harrington, Renfrew), and have published significant material on Akhmatova (Harrington, RA2 1-4), Dostoevsky (Harrington RA2 2), and Tynianov (Renfrew, RA2 2 and 3). In addition, Renfrew has wide-ranging interests in literary and critical theory, framing expertise on the Bakhtin circle and the critical environment of the Soviet 1920s (RA2 1-4). Renfrew has also published on Scottish-Russian literary relations in the context of a broad comparative framework (including RA2 4).

2. History
O’Meara is a specialist on the history of Imperial Russia and, in particular, on the Decembrists. He has published extensively on the Alexandrine and Nikolaevan periods, including major studies of Kondratii Ryleev and, more recently, Pavel Pestel (RA2 1). He has also worked on Irish-Russian relations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and is currently writing a monograph on the nobility in the reign of Alexander I.

3. Slavonic Linguistics and Linguistic Historiography
Reznik works on the linguistics of Russian and Ukrainian and on the evolution of linguistics as an academic discipline in the Russian and Soviet context. She has published on Marr (RA2 1), Voloshinov, the impact of Saussure in Russia, Language Reform, and on the Russian contribution to the emergence of sociolinguistics, subjects which are closely related to Renfrews work on the critical environment of the 1920s.

4. Cinema
Renfrew has interests in the theory and history of Russian and Soviet cinema, once again with particular focus on the Soviet 1920s (cf. RA2 3); this will form the main focus of his research in the mid-term (see below under ‘Strategy beyond 2007’).

The Department’s outputs under headings 1 and 2 above, in particular, constitute a significant contribution to their respective areas, and to the development of these subjects within the context of Russian Studies.

All members of the Department are active in fostering research interchange within the broad Russian and Slavonic community, including the co-ordination of BASEES Study Groups: O’Meara is membership secretary/treasurer of the Study Group on Eighteenth-Century Russia, and will organise its quintennial international conference at the University’s Van Mildert College in 2009; Renfrew is convenor of the Study Group for the Literature of the Twentieth Century and Beyond and organiser of its annual conference; Harrington is co-ordinator of the literature/culture/gender/media studies stream for the annual BASEES conference.

Members of the Department have also been involved in collaborative research projects, within and beyond Durham:
Harrington is developing interests in visual culture and is a member of DCAPS (see above), under whose auspices she organised an exhibition at the University in March 2006 entitled ‘Images of Rural Russia’; Renfrew is organiser of the Durham ‘Seminar on Russian Cultural and Critical Studies’, which will, in addition to its external orientation, provide a forum for future research collaboration with colleagues in other Departments at Durham with expertise in Russian and East European Studies, most notably History (Prof. David Moon and Dr Sarah Davies) and Music (Dr Patrick Zuk).

Renfrew has collaborated widely on critical theory projects with colleagues from Exeter (Dr Carol Adlam) and Manchester (Prof. Galin Tihanov), and on Scottish Literature’s relationship with Europe and the English-speaking world with colleagues from Glasgow (Dr Gerard Carruthers) and Strathclyde (Dr David Goldie); this work has led to a number of essays and two co-edited books, Beyond Scotland (2004) and Scotland and the Nineteenth-Century World (forthcoming in 2008).
(c) Research income
The Head of School, Director of Research, and Head of Department have direct responsibility for encouraging and enabling staff to apply for external research grants. The School Research Committee has sponsored advisory workshops by external colleagues currently running large research projects. The School’s collegial climate also allows the dissemination of best practice, principally through the medium of an archive of successful applications. In order to encourage competitive bids to external funding bodies, in 2004 the Faculty of Arts and Humanities introduced departmental research income targets. In addition, external funding bids are facilitated by the University’s Research and Economic Development Support Service, which helps academic staff to identify appropriate funding sources for their research activity and develop funding applications.

Since 2001, members of the Russian Department have successfully applied to the following schemes: AHRC Research Leave Scheme (Renfrew 2001 [leading to RA2 1 and 2]; Harrington 2004 [RA2 1-3]); British Academy Small Research Grant (Renfrew 2005 [RA2 3]; O’Meara 2007); British Academy Overseas Conference Grants (Bartlett 2006; Reznik 2007). In the current academic year, Harrington has submitted an application for a British Academy Research Development Award for ‘The Visual Dimension of Russian Poetry’, and Renfrew is preparing applications to the AHRC Research Grant scheme for a major project on Iurii Tynianov (submission in November 2007), and to Leverhulme’s Visiting Professor scheme in order to facilitate collaboration with Prof. Vitalii Makhlin (RGPU, Moscow) on ‘The Future of the Humanities in Russia and the West’ (submission in May 2008).

3. Staff and students

(a) Support and development of staff

The management of research is carried out by MLAC through its Research Committee and Director of Research, working in partnership with Heads of Department. The research activity of every member of academic staff is formally monitored each year by means of a meeting with an experienced senior researcher to review progress and discuss future plans. This process has recently been strengthened in Russian, where the Head of Department has taken on the role of exploring possible sources of external funding with individual colleagues, and of co-ordinating applications within the context of the overall work of the Department.

The relationship between research and other areas of work is also reviewed annually within a University-wide Annual Staff Review programme, incorporating a range of training courses available for all staff, which can be tailored to fit the individual’s developmental needs. In addition, early-career researchers are assigned a mentor, who provides support and guidance in all areas of career development. It is School policy, built into a detailed workload model, to ensure that early-career researchers are not over-burdened with administrative and teaching responsibilities; the quality and volume of
Rezniks research output has directly benefited from these provisions (see ‘Research Profile’ and ‘Strategy beyond 2007’).

As well as overseeing the monitoring process, helping to identify and follow up funding opportunities and review training needs, the School Research Committee administers an annual budget of £30,000, which is available on a competitive basis to all members of the School. Research Committee assesses applications by colleagues for funding to give papers at national and international conferences, to travel to libraries, to contribute towards publication expenses, to organise conferences, and to support projects in their initial stages. Members of staff can also apply to the Faculty Research Committee, which awards grants of up to £500 for conference attendance, up to £500 to support projects close to completion, and up to £1000 as ‘seed funding’ for pilot projects, especially those involving early-career researchers.  As a matter of policy, however, external funding must also be sought for research trips and overseas conference papers.

Staff may apply for one term of research leave in seven, subject to scrutiny of a formal application by Head of Department and School Research Committee; final approval is by University Research Committee, to which reports on activities carried out during leave are submitted. Russian has over the census period sought to organise its teaching and administrative commitments to allow staff to take advantage of this entitlement and, with the achievement of ‘critical mass’ through the appointments of Reznik and Renfrew in 2006-2007, is now in a position to organise research leave on a moderated cyclical basis; Harrington commenced the new cycle with a period of leave through the second half of 2007.

(b) Effect of departure of staff during the census period

The departure of Bartlett in July 2006 has enabled the Department to enhance its research profile and focus through the recruitment of Renfrew to a Readership; Renfrews expertise in literary and critical theory is of particular methodological relevance to colleagues working in other MLAC departments.

(c) Research students and studentships

The University’s recent investment in staffing in Russian was designed in part to facilitate the recruitment and supervision of research postgraduates at a level commensurate with its re-invigorated research environment; the appointment of Renfrew, in particular, who has a proven track record in this area (in terms both of successful applications to ORS and AHRC, and of supervision to completion of doctoral degrees), is designed to extend the scope of the Department’s research culture by developing its PGR community. The School’s workload model, introduced in 2005, makes explicit provision for postgraduate supervision, as does the review of specialist modules available at final-year level currently underway in Russian. This review is part of a broader strategy for PGR recruitment, which also includes involvement in two new MLAC taught Masters programmes (Reznik in the MA in Translation Studies [from 2008], and Renfrew in the proposed MA in Culture and Difference [from 2009]), and the introduction of a Masters by Research degree, which will function as an additional, and more specifically focused pathway into doctoral research.

University funding for postgraduates takes the form of a competitive Doctoral Fellowships scheme (providing full fees and maintenance). Applications are judged on the basis of research proposal, referees’ reports and strategic fit within the wider research environment of the Department and School. Most recently, the University has enabled the School to offer bursaries of up to £2000 to outstanding PhD applicants requiring additional support. The Faculty of Arts and Humanities Postgraduate Centre is equipped with networked PCs and wireless internet access, and is reserved for the use of both research and taught postgraduates. It provides space for private study and postgraduate seminars and reading groups, which run in parallel with MLAC’s postgraduate seminar series.

The Research Councils’ Joint Skills Statement provides the basis for research training provision. The School offers subject-specific training via its Research Methods and Resources Module, co-ordinated by the School Postgraduate Training Co-ordinator, who is responsible for analysis of individual students’ training needs at the beginning of each academic year. Generic research training is provided centrally by the University through its Postgraduate Training Programme in conjunction with the IT Service and the University Library. Attendance at both departmental and University research training programmes is mandatory. The Director of Postgraduate Research oversees admissions, induction and monitoring issues more generally and reports to the University Graduate School Committee. Students’ progress is monitored at intervals of 6, 18 and 30 months by two members of staff, whose written report is considered by the School Research Committee.

4. Strategy beyond 2007
The Department is committed to further enhancement of the excellence of its research culture and outputs through the publication of monographs, articles, and edited collections; the generation of external funding for individual and collaborative research projects; the creation of a vibrant postgraduate research culture; and the organisation of international conferences and seminar series. The Department is also committed to the development of interdisciplinary collaborations, both within the context of MLAC and with the wider academic community.

Harrington is working on a major project on the visual dimension of Russian poetry, which will lead to two monographs: the first on the various ways in which poets exploit the possibilities of layout, the second on the relationship with the visual arts more broadly, including such techniques as ecphrasis and synaesthesia. She is also preparing a substantial article on the relationship between the poetics of Afanasy Fet and Anna Akhmatova (for submission in December 2007).

O’Meara is currently working on a major monograph project entitled ‘A Social and Political Portrait of the Russian Nobility under Alexander I (1801–1825)’, for which he has carried out preparatory work at the Slavonic Library of Helsinki University in July 2005 and November 2006, and in Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod in 2007. Two further research trips (to Petersburg and Helsinki) are planned for 2008, all facilitated by a recently successful British Academy Small Research Grant application. The book is due for delivery in 2009.

Renfrew is currently completing an introduction to Bakhtin for Routledge’s Critical Thinkers series, and is working on a monograph history of cinema in Russia from its beginnings to the present day, also contracted to Routledge for their National Cinemas series, which will be the first comprehensive treatment of the subject in English for over fifty years (delivery autumn 2008). He is also preparing a substantial grant application for a four-year project on Iurii Tynianov, to be submitted to the AHRC in November 2007, with a projected start date of October 2008.

Reznik is in the process of completing a monograph for Peter Lang, entitled Saussure in Russia, and, in the longer term, is planning the first book-length study in English of Evgenii Polivanov, which focuses on the institutional context of the 1920s as well as on Polivanov’s immense contribution to linguistic theory. She is also developing interests in travel writing in Ukrainian.

5. Esteem

Harrington has written reviews and review articles for the Times Higher Education Supplement, Slavonica, Rossica, Source, and Modern Language Review. She is a referee/reader for Slavic Review and Modern Language Review. She has been invited to give lectures and papers to the BASEES Nineteenth-Century Study Group and the Great-Britain Russia Society (London). She was nominated in 2006 for a four-year committee membership of BASEES by the President and duly elected by its members; this involves acting as liaison with the Subject Centre (LLAS). She has also, since 2006, been co-ordinator of the literature/culture/gender/media studies stream (comprising over 16 panels) for the BASEES annual conference in Cambridge.

O’Meara is a regular reviewer for Journal of European Studies, Slavic Review, Slavonic and East European Review and Kritika, and referee/reader for Slavic Review, Slavonica and History of Political Thought. He has been invited to provide entries for The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and the Literary Encyclopaedia. He has been invited to give papers in Cambridge and at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, and has contributed to the BBC’s Russian Service and RTE Radio on Anglo-Russian-Irish cultural and historical relations and on current affairs.

Renfrew has contributed to the Times Higher Education Supplement, and has been invited to contribute to Voprosy literatury. He has made invited contributions, in Russian translation, to Bakhtinskii sbornik V, a collection of significant work on Bakhtin published in Russia and the West over the past 25 years, and to the journal of Bakhtin studies Dialog. Karnaval. Khronotop. He is referee/reader for Polity Press, Modern Language Review, and Slavonic and East European Review, to which he has also contributed review articles, and has been invited to give lectures at the universities of Glasgow, London (UCL/SSEES), and at Chichester Film Festival. He is also convener of the BASEES Study Group for the Literature of the Twentieth Century and Beyond, and organises its annual international conference at Mansfield College, Oxford, as well as its contributing panels to the annual BASEES national conference. He has acted as external examiner for research degrees at the University of Glasgow (MPhil 2004) and Swansea Institute (PhD 2007).

Reznik (ECR) has reviewed for Modern Language Review and has been invited to give papers at the universities of Sheffield, Exeter, and Lausanne. She has also held a Swiss National Science Foundation research Fellowship at Lausanne.