Photo of Joanna Bourke

Joanna Bourke 

Joanna Bourke is Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London, and a Fellow of the British Academy. She is also the Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College. Bourke is the Principal Investigator and Director of an interdisciplinary Wellcome Trust-funded project entitled ‘SHaME’ (Sexual Harms and Medical Encounters, which explores medical and psychiatric aspects of sexual violence). She is the prize-winning author of fifteen books, as well as over 120 articles in academic journals. Among others, she is the author of Dismembering the Male: Men’s Bodies, Britain, and the Great War, An Intimate History of Killing (which won the Wolfson Prize and the Fraenkel Prize), Fear: A Cultural History, What it Means To Be Human, The Story of Pain, and Wounding the World: How Military Violence and War-Play are Invading Our Lives. In 2022, Reaktion Books published Disgrace: Global Reflections on Sexual Violence ((also published by Chicago University Press) and Oxford University Press published Birkbeck: 200 Years of Radical Education for Working People. Her books have been translated into Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Portuguese, Czech, Turkish, and Greek. 

Lecture "The Gender of Fear: Female Evil in Twentieth Century Culture"

Fear is a cultural phenomenon. In the words of Juri Lotman, ‘it is not threat that creates fear; it is rather fear that creates threat’, often in the form of generalised suspicion, scapegoating, and attempts to expel those labelled ‘transgressors’ from the community. Lotman explored the dynamics of affect in the context of female witches in medieval and early-modern periods and the figure of the barbarian, or the Greek βάρβαρος (‘he who babbles’). In this talk, I address the fear of evil (κακό) in post-1960s, secular Britain. In particular, I analysis the trope of female evil (or evil witch, κακί μάγιςςα). Through a case study of two women who raped and then killed children (Myra Hindley and Rose West), I reflect on the creation of atmospheres of anxiety, fears of the feminine, the role of the media, and the political, ethical, and aesthetic tensions integral to notions of female evil.


Photo of E. Dobrenko

Evgeny Dobrenko

Evgeny Dobrenko is Professor of Russian, Ca Foscari University of Venice. His research interests lie in Soviet and post-Soviet literature and culture, Socialist Realism, Soviet national literatures, Russian and Soviet film, critical theory and Soviet cultural history. He is the author, editor and co-editor of twenty books, including State Laughter: Populism, Stalinist Culture, and the Construction of the Soviet Subject (2022), “It’s just letters on paper…” Vladimir Sorokin: After the Literature (Moscow, 2018), Socialist Realism in Central and Eastern European Literatures: Institutions, Dynamics, Discourses (2018),  Russian literature since 1991 (2015), A History of Russian Literary Theory and Criticism: The Soviet Age and Beyond (2011), The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Russian Literature (2011), Noncanonical Classic: Dmitry Aleksandrovich Prigov (2010), Petrified Utopia: Happiness Soviet Style (2009), Museum of the Revolution: Stalinist Cinema and the Production of History (2008), Political Economy of Socialist Realism (2007), Soviet Culture and Power A History in Documents, 1917-1953 (2007), Aesthetics of Alienation: Reassessment of Early Soviet Cultural Theories (2005), The Landscape of Stalinism: The Art and Ideology of Soviet Space (2003), Soviet Riches: Essays on Culture, Literature and Film (2002), The Making of the State Writer: Social and Aesthetic Origins of Soviet Literary Culture (2001), Socialist Realist Canon (2000), Endquote: Sots-Art Literature and Soviet Grand Style (1999), The Making of the State Reader: Social and Aesthetic Contexts of the Reception of Soviet Literature (1997), Socialist Realism without Shores (1997), Metaphor of Power: Literature of the Stalin Era in Historical Context (1993), and more than 300 articles and essays which have been translated into ten languages.

Lecture "Stalinist Comedy of Fear"

There was no more widespread feeling in Stalinist Russia than fear. And there was no greater taboo in Stalinist culture than the taboo of fear. Soviet society was riddled with fear from the very top to bottom. Fear of repression and hunger, of arrest and poverty, of losing loved ones and disempowerment in the face of the state. Stalinist culture promoted a heroic mode of behaviour. The aesthetic of the heroic denied fear. That was why fear was not representable, and when it was occasionally representable, it was only as a subject of condemnation, a sign of weakness, individualism, and social inferiority. The unrepresentable fear was pushed into the realm of the comic, which mirrored the heroic. The fear that was absent from Stalinist culture found its place in the genres of Soviet comedy. Stalinism was flooded with laughter. On the eve of the Great Terror, Stalin proclaimed that "life became better, life became merrier". While Stalinism was permeated with state terror, violence and fear, the Soviet people were literally bathed in joy, merriment, and jubilation. Soviet - not anti-Soviet laughter, not subversive laughter, but the laughter of the Soviet state - accompanied the Soviet man anywhere and everywhere. From official speeches to newspapers, from film musicals to satirical comedies, from novels and poems to fables, feuilletons and cartoons. It could be said that what was evident in Stalinism could not enter the public sphere. And other way around, what was not at all obvious literally flooded the public arena. There is no paradox here. Soviet state laughter was simply a transformed and sublimated fear. If one reads Soviet state laughter in this way, much is revealed to us about Stalinism. The paper is focused on an examination of some of the main forms of fear representation in the comic genres of Stalinism.


Photo of Andrei Zorin

Andrei Zorin 

Andrei Zorin (PhD and Habilitaiton, Moscow State University) Professor, Chair of Russian, University of Oxford. Taught in Russian in US Universities, including Russian State University for Humanities, Moscow Higher School of Social and Economic Sciences, Harvard, Stanford, University of Michigan Ann Arbor a.o. Published Kormia Dvuglavogo Orla (Moscow 2001, in English Translation: By Fables Alone. Russian Literature and State Ideology in the last third of the XVII first third of the XIX century. Boston 2014), Poiavlenie geroia (Moscow. 2016, In English translation – The Emergence of Hero. The Tale of Romantic Love in Russia. Oxford 2023), On the Periphery of Europe. The Self-Invention of the Russian Elite. (with Andreas Schönle. De Kalb. Il. 2018). Leo Tolstoy. A Critical Life (Lnd. 2020/ Russian version. Lev Tolstoy. Opyt Prochtenia. Moscow 2020) as well as ten edited volumes and more than one 150 articles in Russian, English, French, German, Italian, Finnish and Swedish). 


Lecture "Tolstoy: Fear of Death and Fear of Mortality - Experience, Representation, Philosophy. 

The fear and attraction of death was the defining feature of Tolstoy’s spiritual quest from his childhood when he was overcoming the trauma of the early death of his parents up to the last moments of his own life. He lived through the losses of his friends, siblings and children, and was personally present at the deathbed of his brother Nicholai and his son Maria.  He was himself many times on the verge of dying. Almost all his literary works contain the detailed description of people dying – to name just the few one can remember mother’s death in Childhood, the description of the last thoughts of the dying officer in Sebastopol stories, Prince Andrei’s Death in “War and Peace”, Nicholai Levin’s and Anna’s deaths in Anna Karenina, not speaking of the stories where death is the main topic like Three Deaths and The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Once he said that only a very shallow person can not be afraid of death. However, it was not the loss of life itself that Tolstoy experienced. He was mostly afraid of not proving himself worthy of this most sacred moment of human existence, which according to his philosophy liberates humans from the cage of individual existence and returns them to the wholeness of general life. The feeling of one own’s mortality and the expectation of approaching demise could suck meaning from human existence and may on the contrary endow it with the sense of purpose and belonging to the higher sphere of cosmic order. Tolstoy planned to entitle his main philosophical treatise On Life and Death but then cut the last word saying “There is no death”. According to Tolstoy there are two ways to escape the debilitating fear of death and even permanent horror of mortality. One is “primordial” – to feel yourself a part of the nature, experiencing your own unity with the soil from where you come, which feeds you throughout your life and where you are going to lay after your death. Another one is celestial – to dissolve yourself in a wave of Christian love. In a way, nearly everything Tolstoy ever wrote can be read as an analysis of this main problem of his life.


Photo of M. LotmanMihhail Lotman

Lotman is a Professor Emeritus at Tallinn University, School of Humanities, and a Visiting Professor at Tartu, Department of Semiotics. His research interests include general and cultural semiotics, history and theory of the Tartu-Moscow School, literary theory, Estonian and Russian poetry, Acmeism, and the works of Joseph Brodsky. He is the author of "On Russian and Soviet Poetry" (1989), "Mandelstam and Pasternak" (1996), "Studies in the Field of Semantic Poetics of Acmeism" (2012), “Structure and Freedom” (in Estonian) (2021). Mihhail Lotman is also an organizer of the conference "Frontiers in Comparative Metrics" and the founder and editor of the academic journal "Studia Metrica et Poetica". He serves as the editor of the web environment "Estonian Verse", co-editor of "Sign System Studies", and editor of the "Acta of Estonian Institute of Humanities". Since 2009, he has been a member of the organizing committee for the Annual Lotman Days at Tallinn University and a member of the editorial board for the Bibliotheca Lotmaniana series published by Tallinn University Press. He has published a collection of Juri Lotman’s articles under the title “Fear and confusion” (2007) and, in 2009, wrote a series of articles on “Semiotics of fear and the typology of Russian culture”.

Lecture "On the other side of fear"

The phenomenon of fear is discussed in this report from the perspective of the semiotics of culture. Different semiotic models and situations of fear are proposed. In particular, a distinction is made between situations when fear is a reaction to danger and situations when fear itself creates danger. Here we are dealing with fundamentally different types of semiosis. In the first case, fear is a reaction (R) of the subject (S) to danger (D): D → S → R.  In the second case, there are both situations S → D → R (the subject creates the danger to which he reacts) and S → R → D. The latter situation is of particular interest since it is fear that is creative.  The subject of fear can be an individual, a group of individuals, or even society as a whole. It is at the level of society that the S → R → D model is most relevant. The notion of the sphere of fear is introduced. Several examples of conspiracy theories and their implications are discussed. There are various mechanisms for getting out of the fear sphere: change of context, apathy, humour, etc. 

(Lecture will be in Russian with translation to English)