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Jenifer Presto

Jenifer Presto profile picture
  • Title: Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Russian
  • Additional Title: Director, Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (on leave 2016-17)
  • Phone: 541-346-4065
  • Office: 272 PLC
  • Office Hours: Spring 2017: by appointment only
  • Interests: 20th-century Russian literature, modernism, gender, poetry, visuality
  • Curriculum Vitae


A.B., Russian Literature, 1985, Smith College
M.A., 1988, Russian Language, Middlebury College
M.A., 1989, Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ph.D., 1996, Slavic Languages and Literatures with a Comparative Literature Minor, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Middlebury College Program at the Pushkin Institute in Moscow, 1987-88

CIEE Program at Leningrad State University, Fall 1983


Jenifer Presto received a doctorate in Slavic languages and literatures, with a minor in comparative literature, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1996. Prior to joining the UO in 2003, she served as resident director of the Wisconsin program at Moscow State University and taught at the University of Virginia and the University of Southern California. She also held an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at USC for a year. She has published articles on Nikolai Gogol and the Russian modernists in Russian LiteratureRussian Review, Slavic and East European JournalSlavic Review, and the Cambridge History of Women’s Writing in Russia. Her first book, Beyond the Flesh: Alexander Blok, Zinaida Gippius, and the Symbolist Sublimation of Sex, examined the problem of gender and self-creation in the art and lives of two of Russia's foremost symbolist poets. Currently, she is at work on a new book, entitled Modernism and Catastrophe: Russian Writing Between Etna and Vesuvius, which explores the Russians’ extraordinarily rich creative encounters with southern Italy. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, numerous Russian writers, artists, and intellectuals were drawn to Naples, Sorrento, Capri, the Amalfi coast, and Sicily. Yet the existing scholarship on Russian modernism has privileged the movement’s indebtedness to the cities of Berlin, Moscow, Paris, Rome, and St. Petersburg. In contrast, this study shifts the focus of Russian modernist studies southward away from the metropolitan centers of Russia and Western Europe to the Italian south and Sicily. It provides historically situated readings of southern Italian texts by prominent and lesser-known Russian modernists, attending to the writers' engagement with the region’s rugged geography and myriad ruins. In so doing, this project brings into relief a critical geopoetic dimension of Russian modernism—one that bore the imprint of the seismic terrain of southern Italy and the radically shifting cultural and political landscape of modern Russia. Ultimately, Modernism and Catastrophe reveals that Russian modernism and, indeed, modernism in general was not just an urban phenomenon; it also drew inspiration from the periphery and from the cataclysmic forces threatening modern existence. Drawing on her diverse research interests, Professor Presto teaches courses on modernism, gender studies, and visuality, as well as on various aspects of Russian literature and culture.

Selected Publications


Beyond the Flesh: Alexander Blok, Zinaida Gippius, and the Symbolist Sublimation of Sex. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2008. xviii + 334 pp.

Special Issue

Special section on “Russian Geopoetics,” coedited and introduced with Anindita Banerjee, Slavic Review vol. 75 no. 2 (2016) (forthcoming).

Journal Articles

“Introduction: Toward a Russian Geopoetics, or Some Ways of Relating Russia to the World,” coauthored with Anindita Banerjee, Slavic Review vol. 75 no. 2 (2016) (forthcoming).

"Uncanny Excavations: Khodasevich, Pompeii, and Remains of the Past," Russian Review vol. 74 no. 2 (2015): 272-92.

"The Aesthetics of Disaster: Blok, Messina, and the Decadent Sublime," Slavic Review vol. 70 no. 3 (2011): 569-90.

“Unbearable Burdens: Aleksandr Blok and the Modernist Resistance to Progeny and Domesticity.” Slavic Review vol. 63, no.1 (2004): 6-25.

“The Androgynous Gaze of Zinaida Gippius.” Russian Literature XLVIII-I (2000): 87-115.

“Reading Zinaida Gippius: Over Her Dead Body.” Slavic and East European Journal vol. 43, no. 4 (1999): 621-35.

“The Fashioning of Zinaida Gippius.” Slavic and East European Journal vol. 42, no. 1 (1998): 58-75.

“Ivan Fedorovich Shpon’ka i ego tetushka’ as ‘Oral’ Narrative, or ‘Food for the Critics.’” Russian Literature XXXIX (1996): 359-72.

Book Chapter

“Women in Russian Symbolism: Beyond the Algebra of Love.” In A History of Women’s Writing in Russia, edited by Adele M. Barker and Jehanne Gheith. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 134-52.

Work in Progress


Modernism and Catastrophe: Russian Writing Between Etna and Vesuvius